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. Jam One

    I did not even need to see his party affiliation to know he was a Republican.

    What is wrong with the representatives from that party?

    June 13, 2013 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  2. Colin Morgan

    Oh look. A republican making a stupid remark about rape. I'm shocked.

    June 13, 2013 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  3. floyd schrodinger

    Why don't republicans just call rape what they think it is "an attack with a friendly weapon" then giggle and leave it at that. All these little side comments are getting boring.

    June 13, 2013 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  4. simplulo

    I have read that conception occurs in some 6% of rapes, higher than after consensual intercourse, probably because rapists choose victims who are more likely to conceive (younger, closer to ovulation). That might sound like a low percentage, but, multiplied by the number of rape victims, it means quite a lot of individual tragedies. A compromise between the extremists on both sides would be to provide rapid, quality support to the victims, helping them terminate the pregnancy early. Reduce the number of unwanted late-term pregnancies, and you reduce the number of late-term abortions.

    June 13, 2013 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  5. Anonymous

    This is typical Republican male chauvinist anti-choice behaivor.

    This is also one reason why I vote Democrat all the way: the Republicans have never offered me candidates that represent MY political views. In fact they go out of their way to stamp on them !

    June 13, 2013 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  6. Jack Be Humble

    So the GOP has a new "rape guy"? For the sake of our two party system, I wish republicans would be more cautious before uttering that word.

    June 13, 2013 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  7. Paul Wilson of New Jersey

    This is typical Republican male chauvinist anti-choice behaivor. They even go after Planned Parenthood in the name of Jesus.

    This is why I always vote Democrat all the way. The Republican party never offers me candidates that represent MY views. they go out of their way to stamp on them.

    June 13, 2013 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  8. Ron

    You know it would be nice if politicians actually put some thought into what they say before they say it. Granted, everything that is said by anyone can very easily be taken out of context. However, I find it interesting that someone who is against something morally talks as if they are some kind of expert or consultant on the matter. In the article he states that it is flawed to think that someone would wait 6 months to report a rape. Who is this guy to tell a woman when she should report a rape? Maybe the woman feels shamed or will be shamed by people that are close to her or maybe she thinks it would hurt someones careers who, oh I don't know, may have political aspirations. It just kills me when folks get to say anything and do not put genuine thought behind it.

    June 13, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  9. frontgatee

    Typical republican, running for cover after speaking his "real" mind.

    June 13, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  10. wwf

    What I meant to say, you should have known what I meant to say, you took what i said, though I meant to say something else out of context. Where have we heard that before? funny how all politicians always mean something else. The problem here is there is a pattern of this same talk on the same subject by the GOP. Fool me once. You know the rest.

    June 13, 2013 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  11. Corncop

    Clarify??? Sounded pretty clear to me! Perhaps this fine, upstanding Republican was misguided by one of those outside agitators like those referenced by the North Carolina GOP'ers commenting about our ongoing Moral Monday protesters? Franks could easily fit into that category that the GOP'ers have also called "MORON" Monday. Sir: let me remind you of an important rule of public speaking from many years ago: "Engage mind, then put mouth in gear!" That is, if you have a mind to engage!

    June 13, 2013 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  12. Don

    If that is what he ment to say, it was way to far from what he said. Maybe he should write it down first and read it over prior to opening his mouth. Sounds Like another Cover up.

    June 13, 2013 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  13. Joe

    "Franks said at the hearing it was "flawed" logic to think a pregnant woman would wait six months to report a rape. " – Yeah, because it's a trivial matter to make a public spectacle of your violation, just like filing your taxes. Surely anyone who waits is just lazy and should have to bear that rape baby. Ignoramus.

    June 13, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  14. Grandma

    Funny... There's no way to get "what he intended to say" out of what he actually said. He would be better off just to keep his mouth shut!

    June 13, 2013 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  15. Paul

    Reporter claims to know what this politician's intentions were? Someone explain to me how a reporter could know what his intentions were – and then state that as fact. Is this Fox? Where the reporters don't bother to hide their bias? Come on CNN!

    June 13, 2013 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  16. They call me joe.....

    What's up with these Republican congressman. When a Democratic law is passed, these guys are always trying to rip it apart. It almost seems as if its useless to have a Democrat sponser, create, or even push a law thru. Cause no matter how many years pass, they will always find a way to get rid of it. Look at roe vrs wade. These Republicans are still trying to eliminate it. The Republicans don't care about the majority of the American people. Only the few rich ones. :/

    June 13, 2013 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  17. Kevin

    Democrats will take any Republicans' comment about rape out of context for the sake of advancing their political agenda. It's a shame we can't have a productive conversation about it anymore. The ability to have a discussion about a controversial issue has deteriorated because of media and partisan politics.

    June 13, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  18. Gary

    The problem is not the comment in so much as it always seems that all the Republicans speak about anymore is either cut taxes, abortion, or vote out Obamacare... A broken record either gets annoying or we tune it out...
    Also seems that, over all the Republican Party or the unison which is the Republican Party is just one person cloned saying the same things with a majority of what they are saying not common with the American Public.

    June 13, 2013 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  19. dragonfire77

    Add this guy to the "You're not helping our image makeover" list for the GOP.

    June 13, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  20. Namelin

    Why would any woman wait 20 weeks to get an abortion, period.?!

    June 13, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  21. Dan

    How come no one can ever say: "Excuse my mistake; whet I meant to say was...?" Instead, they throw bile and insults, and avoid any discussion.

    June 13, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  22. Strangways

    ahhh, another joyless, clueless, tone deaf republican. keep up the good work!

    June 13, 2013 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  23. A in Pa

    You know, if a premature baby can be saved if born alive..maybe it's a little late for an abortion. I am all for a womans right to choose and really, really want goverment out of the doctors office. However late term abortions are really ugly business and I'm really hard pressed to be OK with them. If you missed the window to have an abortion for 5 months maybe just suck it up and have the baby. I know I'll get flamed for this but, oh well.

    June 13, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  24. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Someone in the National Republican Party really needs to hand a playbook to these guys advising them to avoid the words Rape and Pregnancy in the same paragraph. Whenever they use them together, they invariably stick their collective feet in their collective mouths.

    June 13, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  25. The Other Bob

    Another member of the "stupid party" who didn't get Jindal's message.

    June 13, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
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