June 12th, 2013
06:28 PM ET
9 years ago

Rep. Franks tries to clear up rape comment

(CNN) - Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona, said he was taken out of context Wednesday and tried to clarify his controversial comment from a committee markup earlier in the day, when he said the "incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low."

Franks intended to say that the number of abortions due to rape after the start of the sixth month of gestation would be low, not the number of rapes resulting in pregnancy.

"I told my staff to fasten their seatbelts," Franks told reporters Wednesday, adding he knew Democrats would work to distort his comments.

But he conceded: "Unfortunately perhaps I assisted them a little bit in the phraseology that allowed them to do it."

Franks' original comment came during a discussion about his proposal to ban abortions after 20 weeks, a time at which he says research indicates unborn children can begin to feel pain.

Abortion was legalized in all 50 states in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court. Statutory time limits on when abortions can take place, however, vary from state to state.

When asked about exceptions for cases of rape or incest, Franks said at the hearing it was "flawed" logic to think a pregnant woman would wait six months to report a rape.

"To say that we wait until then, to say that there's a rape or incest involved, is waiting too long," he said, adding that laws need to be tougher on rapists.

When he was asked why his legislation does not include a requirement that rape be reported–as for exception cases in other abortion laws–Franks replied with his controversial comment.

"Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject- because you know the, the incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low, but when you make that exception, there's usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours."

"And in this case, that's impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation, and that's what completely negates and vitiates the purpose of such an amendment," he added.

Franks later told reporters that after the committee markup on Wednesday, he met with House GOP leaders to discuss the situation and said "they are certainly not dissuaded." While he didn't give names on who exactly he met with, he said it was the "highest echelon of leadership."

His comments were a reminder to some of other statements made about rape and pregnancy by Republican candidates last year–namely Republican Rep. Todd Akin, who was running for the U.S. Senate in Missouri when he argued a woman's body was capable of preventing pregnancy during cases of "legitimate rape."

A fellow member of Congress jumped on Franks' remark later during the hearing Wednesday.

"I just find it astonishing to hear a phrase repeated that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is low," said Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California. "There's no scientific basis for that. And the idea that the Republican men on this committee can tell the women of America that they have to carry to term the product of a rape is outrageous."

National Democratic groups have also pounced on the statement, sending emails to reporters to highlight the remark and issuing disapproving statements.

Franks later noted on his Facebook page that the Judiciary Committee passed his bill by a vote of 20 in favor to 12 opposed.

"I look forward to a floor vote on the bill," he wrote.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the committee passage of the bill proves that Republicans are "out of touch and extreme."

"This is yet another attempt by the Republican Party to overturn Roe v. Wade. Republicans passed the bill along a party-line vote, and they are expected to send the bill to the full House for a vote next week," she said in a statement, which also criticized Franks.

The Republican congressman told reporters that Democrats had instigated the whole controversy.

"The rape thing was something the Democrats injected. I never would have dealt with that issue. Our bill doesn't deal with that because it's the beginning of the six month [of pregnancy]."

He said Democrats are trying to shift the debate. "That was their goal – was to make something other than the issue the issue and I think that they have had some success in that regard and people are a lot brighter...They will talk about anything other than six month babies being tortuously murdered."

Filed under: Abortion • House
soundoff (302 Responses)
  1. DE

    The totally stupid right wing statement of the week. They never let us down.

    June 13, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    from the article:

    "The rape thing was something the Democrats injected. I never would have dealt with that issue. Our bill doesn't deal with that because it's the beginning of the six month [of pregnancy]."
    How narrow minded can you get? He was asked about it BECAUSE the bill doesn't address it.

    June 13, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  3. boredinpa

    From the CDC:
    The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS)

    On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States, based on a survey conducted in 2010. Over the course of a year, that equals more than 12 million women and men. Those numbers only tell part of the story—more than 1 million women are raped in a year and over 6 million women and men are victims of stalking in a year. These findings emphasize that sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence are important and widespread public health problems in the United States....

    so to some peoples logic – 5% is only a little bit...why worry...

    June 13, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  4. Bob

    The number of pregnancies would be even lower if the GOP idiots would stop trying to block sex education (abstinence-only isn't sex education, it is wishful thinking), access to birth control, and access the morning after pill.

    June 13, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  5. ksiner

    This guy is proof of why abortions in the case of incest should be mandatory

    June 13, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  6. derp

    Once again republicans addressing the two most unimportant and vote losing issues they can find.

    Gay marriage and abortion.

    It's as if part of their strategy is to alienate everyone except old white southerners.

    June 13, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  7. Sivick

    herp derp republican

    June 13, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  8. sly

    Facts are, white male Republicans actually like rape. They like the idea. Their party stands for Male Domination, and it is no coincidence that now 10+ Republican senators are on record defending rape.

    Republican = Pro Rape, Anti Abortion.

    Fact of life. To a Republican, the only good woman is a submissive woman who stays in bed or in the kitchen.

    June 13, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  9. Fred meets

    Obama lied, Clinton lied, holder lied, NSA and IRS lied, but you cover this story! REALLY. REALLY........

    June 13, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  10. KrjMc

    Maybe men should just never comment on abortion or rapes, few if any have any idea about the realities of either.

    June 13, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  11. Christiabella

    Even if he did simply misspeak (which I don't buy for a minute), his comment validates the position of uninformed right-wingers who actually believe exactly that kind of nonsense. The opposition has every right to call him out on it. Suck it up, Trent.

    June 13, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  12. Hamburger Jones

    " I want to join the GOP....do I have to have my own rape theories" They like it better if you have a new one, like women have female hearts instead of intelligent male ones and that's why they shouldn't have the vote, or women secretly eat Brillo pads as contraception. Then say women are are great and every man should own a few. We'll be calling you 'Senator' in no time.

    June 13, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  13. skarphace

    chieftrainer: "It's convenient to form your argument as though you are the only person involved in making the decision."

    She is not the only person involved with the decision, clearly. However, she should definitely, without a doubt, be the one who makes the final say in the decision. To claim that a rich white man on capitol hill should have the final say is clearly ridiculous, and is also clearly the Republican message.

    June 13, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  14. Dar

    Most of you on here would take a knife and kill a baby once the head came out where you could grab the poor defenseless child. Then state that most of it was in the womb so who cares. It should be legal if most of it is still inside the womb when you sliced it throat with your knife.
    A do it your self kind of thing, I know you sick Bas..ds know what I talking about. Kill Kill Kill IT.

    SICK people on here that don't have a clue about life and what it is worth. Like Children with no common sense at all.

    June 13, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  15. Doug

    These guys are 100% reliable when it comes to sticking their foot in their mouth about women's issues, rape, reproductive rights, etc. They just don't get it because, to them, there is nothing to get. It's easy. Women are the subjects of men, they are their for the male's amusement and use, and men will determine how to handle them and when to let them make decisions for themselves. These Republicans just can't get beyond the 1050s. They want to go back in time, and they will never change. Luckily, it will cost them elections from now on.

    June 13, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  16. dannyC

    "Yeah I know I said it, I just meant something else."

    June 13, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  17. Lando

    Yeah...you dumbgressman will be first in line on an abortin clinic when one of your relative gets raped....

    June 13, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  18. Lando

    Do you understand what is "toast" , "kaput", "done", "history" next election???

    June 13, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  19. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    Women will remember in 2014 November.
    Well from your mouth to God's ears. We should ALL remember. The GOP however is counting on business as usual from the electorate.
    You know: a new distraction, or we will forget their transgressions and real intentions as we often do; a new shiny thing here, manufactured scandal there and VOILA! Another Rethug makes it home (House)!

    June 13, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  20. Cody

    Can somebody please explain to me why Rep. Franks' comment was so controversial? Cases of rape do account for less than 5% of all abortions. The pro-choice camp likes to move the discussion to these cases in order to hide the fact that 93% of abortions (the 45 million+ abortions performed after Roe v. Wade) are performed for social reasons like "I'm just not ready to have a baby."

    What Rep. Akin said was absurd, inaccurate, and offensive–any slightly-educated person can agree. But Rep. Franks is NOT Akin, and his comment was nothing like Akin's. Similarly, Richard Mourdock is not Todd Akin, and his comment was nothing like Akin's.

    Dear media: shame on you. Aren't there enough scandals going on without you inventing one every time a Republican talks about abortion?

    June 13, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  21. us_1776

    Here we go again.

    More GOP "Legitimate Rape"

    This guy is a Todd Akins wannabe.

    June 13, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  22. rs


    Can somebody please explain to me why Rep. Franks' comment was so controversial? Cases of rape do account for less than 5% of all abortions.
    So, to be clear, you are for forcing that 5-6.4% of women who get pregnant as a result (of a reported) rape at the point of federal law to bear the rapist's child? Does the victim of the crime here have no rights? Who will pay for that baby? Who will help the poor woman mend- having to raise her abuser's child? Face it, using the justification that it's ONLY a 1 in 20 chance, and will only affect 5 % of the crime victims is a hugely inhumane reason to ban abortion based upon rape.
    You cheapen women, you attempt to reduce the crushing impact of the crime, and you support the rapist. Can you say S-I-C-K?

    June 13, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  23. skarphace

    Cody: "Can somebody please explain to me why Rep. Franks' comment was so controversial?"

    Yes, I can and will. Ask yourself not what he is saying but why he is saying it.

    "incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low."

    In itself, this comment does not seem controversial. About 5% of women who get raped get pregnant as a result of that rape. Therefore, his comment is true, is it not? The question is why. Why did he make that comment?

    When you analyze the reasoning behind not only Frank's comment, but the reasoning behind the comments from other Republicans, such as Akin and Mourdock, you can start to see not only a pattern, but the Teavangelist agenda also starts to become apparent.

    What is their agenda? To garner support for the "Personhood Amendment", which will effectively make abortions illegal in every single case, including rape. However, if they come right out and say, "We plan to make abortions illegal for a woman who got pregnant as the result of a rape", then they clearly will not get much support for the bill.

    Therefore, they need to obfuscate and make this about something other than what it is. By saying things such as a woman's body can shut itself down during rape, the chances of a woman getting pregnant as the result of a rape are low, and that a pregnancy as the result of a rape is a gift from God, they are making the case that a woman who gets pregnant as the result of a rape either wasn't really raped, or the rape was intended by God. Either way, she should not be allowed to get an abortion.

    Therefore, we cannot allow ourselves to buy into the idea that these comments are isolated comments by radical Republicans. If we do, we lose sight of the true agenda of Teapublicans, and the "Personhood Amendment" has a better chance of passing.


    June 13, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  24. skarphace

    When this issue came up before, after Akin made his ridiculous claim about a woman's body, Republicans had a woman and her daughter speak up in their defense. The daughter was conceived as the result of a rape and the mother had chosen to bring the child to term. She spoke out saying that she was glad of her decision and could not imagine life without her daughter.

    This is what I would have asked that mother: it is honorable that you made the choice that you did, but what would you have felt like, back when you first found out you had gotten pregnant as the result of being raped, if you had not been given a choice in the matter concerning bringing the child to term? What if somebody in government had made that decision for you, whether or not you could bring that child to term?

    Because that is what this comes down to: who should make the choice. And be careful, Teavangelists, of what you wish for, because this could turn around on you. How would you feel if the government decided that all pregnancies resulting from rape were to be terminated? If you leave this decision up to the government, then you have to live with that decision, whichever way it goes.

    So what shall it be, Republicans? Should the government be given authority to decide who can or cannot carry their children to term? Or shall this decision be up to the woman carrying that child in her body? Big government or small? It is what this debate is really all about (and the same argument could be made concerning the gay marriage issue).

    June 13, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  25. noteasilyswayed

    You can run but you can't hide..... the real right wing extremist agenda keeps popping up at the most inopportune times, doesn't it?

    June 13, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
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