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. sifto

    it is mostly democrats and libs who bring up this subject, constantly....

    June 13, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  2. Colorado

    Oh for crying out loud. Come on Republicans, you have enough time to debate an issue that is supposed to be left to the states to decide but no time to debate a JOBS JOBS JOBS bill?

    June 13, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  3. Larry L

    In Texas the Bible-thumping right-wing constantly fights to block any sex education in our schools – always claiming that to be the parent's responsibility. Yet when their representatives publicly speak about the reproductive system they show an astounding lack of understanding. How many parents can actually discuss the biology (not morality) of the human reproductive system in a complete, technical and scientific manner? Less than 5%?

    June 13, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  4. Matter of Fact

    There can be absolutely no discussion here with the fact that women can always deport themselves accordingly so as to not have to allow an abortion on themselves as a consequence of naive thinking. They can simply keep their legs closed for one. For another, if the unfortunate happens and they are raped, they need Report It Immediately! If you wait six months to report it then it would actually appear that you didn't mind it so much! Don't give that impression, women! Open your eyes and Report the Rape. But pregnancy in general IS preventable and precautions should Always be used so that you do not have to kill an innocent unborn child as a consequence of your wayward out-of-control ways. Open Your Eyes – Close Your Legs!

    June 13, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  5. sifto

    pretty cold bunch of libs and anti-life people on these CNN blogs....

    June 13, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  6. Hamburger Jones

    Yawn. OK, he already said he knows better and just misspoke. Enough already. It's not like he thinks women's bodies have ways to shut that down. He's no more hateful than any other randomly-chosen right-wing nut. Move along, nothing to see and better things to do.

    June 13, 2013 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  7. MNClownfactory

    What baffles me is that it is consistantley Republicans and Preachers who make these comments. Democrats make hay on it for sure but what is wrong with these guys? The fundementaly believe Rape is okay because the woman has it coming or she didnt dress proper or boys will be boys or dont worry a woman rarely gets pregnant from rape. All this is justification for the behavior you can slice it any way and it still comes out that the Far Right wing that has taken over religion and our politics is anti women, anti birth control, anti gay, anti poor and Pro rich, pro adoption regardless of how it ruins the lives of the mother, child and costs the government money, pro rape, pro gun and pro corporation.

    June 13, 2013 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  8. Rosslaw

    I guess the right-wing never ending emphasis on abortion must mean that jobs situation in America is just fine. Next, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution declaring the world to be 6,000 years old. Then everything should be just fine.

    June 13, 2013 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  9. rosethornne

    Republicans really ought to heed the advice of their consultants and treat rape as a four letter word.

    No, wait, I take that back.

    Repugnants need to continue to freely and clearly express their revolting woman-hating ignorant nonsense so everyone can see exactly what they think.

    June 13, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  10. Larry L

    You folks are too hard on conservatives. The only things they oppose are: women's reproductive rights, civil rights, all environmental regulations, gun control of any kind, taxes for the rich, all religions except Christianity, all people except whites, science, Medicare, Social Security, legislation to create jobs, renewable energy, and world peace.

    June 13, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  11. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    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
    Okayyyy.....soooo what were you on exactly because those two trains of thoughts are distinctly and completely different.
    You need to go easy on the "clinical" marijuana Rep Franks.

    June 13, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  12. Marty

    Provocative statements such as those offered by Rep Trent Franks and his colleagues in Congress seem to imply that they have become expert and all-knowing in matters of rape, incest, sexual assault of any nature. These unwanted, monstrous attacks on a human being can result in a pregnancy. Of course Mr Franks, et al, realize the horror and trauma associated with these attacks, why should they be questioned? Therefore they sit in judgement and force a conclusion regardless of circumstance and/ or age. After all, it's an easy decision for these men, they cannot become pregnant, their lives do not change, nor do they really care about the victim.

    There seems to be a cult of sorts forming in the halls of Congress, and they are anathema to a healthy society.

    June 13, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  13. Larry L

    @Matter of Fact

    "They can simply keep their legs closed for one. For another, if the unfortunate happens and they are raped, they need Report It Immediately! If you wait six months to report it then it would actually appear that you didn't mind it so much!
    Have you ever been around a woman who was raped? Look at their eyes and you'll see shame, fear and trauma. People in shock may not think clearly "within 48 hours". Why do you feel YOU have the right to determine the path a woman must take in these situations? Republicans use lies, distortions and moronic sound-bites to energize those who feel entitled to control reproductive functions of women. Like so many of them, you show a hatred and a complete lack of compassion for women. I'll bet you call yourself a Christian...

    June 13, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  14. Brian in DC

    Anyone seen the POTUS or is he just cowering under his desk?

    June 13, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  15. Snarky MacFee

    Why should it take a woman 6 months to decide to abort is a question along unto itself. I dont believe he was taken out of context here, but it isnt an error I think worth screaming about. Alot of people believe that to be true, they always ask for studies that negate the belief but are there ANY studies on whether less or more pregnancies result from rape period? Anyway, I dont see the controversy. What I DO see is the makings of another witch hunt, this time by Dems, to AVOID REAL WORK THAT IS NEEDED. Get off the "he said this and she said that" train and GET BACK TO WORK CONGRESS! Man I dont dont know about everyone else, but I am so sick and tired of paying these fools to sling mud instead of taking care of domestic business of this country.
    Bunch of overpaid and overfed nosy brutes sitting on their arses while thumbing their noses as voters.

    June 13, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  16. Hamburger Jones

    If you are against abortions, don't have any. Rand Paul says that will cause the free market to shut down all the clinics, so you can relax.
    "you libs can jump off the "war against women" Sorry, but since I'm married to a woman, I have an interest in this war. Attack my wife and I'll make you pay triple.

    June 13, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  17. Wm.Russ Martin

    We are all waiting for the legislation to prevent prostate surgery after 20 weeks.

    June 13, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  18. SkepticalOne

    This clown doesn't have any friends on the left side of the aisle. He also doesn't have any gay friends, minority friends, and likely not many female friends.

    June 13, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  19. So sick of this....

    Oh sure, he put his foot in his own mouth but the mean dems we holding it for him right.....

    June 13, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  20. Hamburger Jones

    "pretty cold bunch of libs and anti-life people on these CNN blogs...." Says a guy who uses "libs" as a hate word. Get back to me when I start calling you people Nazis.

    June 13, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  21. Dr. Tre

    While incidents of rape and incest are often raised in defense of a woman's right to choose, it does not address what is really happening more often in cases of abortion. It is more often an economic decision driven by poverty and single parenthood. In those darned "socialist" countries of Western Europe where there is a safety net, unwed mothers are more likely to choose to keep their child. In the U.S. conservatives rail against "welfare mothers" spitting out babies just for the "welfare check." You cannot have it both ways. If you want to limit abortions, then you better be ready to help support ,them when they are born and the mother cannot.

    June 13, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  22. Anonymous


    it is mostly democrats and libs who bring up this subject, constantly....

    You do realize that all the anti-abortion bills in Congress were brought up by Republicans for passage? If you don't know the answer, google "how many anti-abortion bills have passed in congress since 2010".

    June 13, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  23. spursareold

    Nothing to see here. Just Republicans being Republicans.

    June 13, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  24. laren

    I find it appalling that he danced around that comment and made an equally stupid one.
    Women who have been in that situation can certainly explain that they thought of keeping it, tried to convince themselves that it would be ok and then decided they could not to it. Just another example of a bunch of misogynistic old suits who believe they know whats best.

    June 13, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  25. Dano

    While I generally disagree with the stupid things that come out of these men's mouths, and support the right of women to choose, I have to agree with one thing Mr. Franks said.

    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.

    I can't see any valid reason for a woman who was raped to wait 5 months before deciding to terminate her pregnancy. For that matter, I don't understand why pro-life & pro-choice groups can't come to some sensible agreement about when abortion is no longer an option, and 20 weeks seems like a perfectly reasonable time frame for a woman to decide whether or not to terminate the pregnancy. If Americans and their elected representatives would simply each give in a little on their opposing views until they've reach an equitable compromise, many of these divisive issues could be solved without the constant legal and verbal assaults on each other.

    June 13, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
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