A Republican congressman Wednesday claimed that the likelihood of pregnancies from rape is “very low,” then tried to walk back his remark after it drew comparisons to former Rep. Todd Akin’s infamous “legitimate rape” comment.
“The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., according to the Washington Post. The comment came during a House Judiciary Committee debate over a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape, incest, or when the health of the mother is at risk.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., immediately jumped on Franks’ remarks in the committee. “The idea that the Republican men on this committee think they can tell the women of America that they have to carry to term the product of a rape is outrageous,” Lofgren said, according to Politico.
Democrats and women’s groups quickly denounced both the bill and Franks’ comments. After the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee circulated an account of his remarks, Franks tried to clarify. “Just to make clear my point earlier, pregnancies from rape that result in abortion after the beginning of the sixth month are very rare,” he said, denying that he had suggested that rape rarely leads to pregnancy.
The Judiciary Committee approved the 20-week abortion ban and the full House is expected to vote on it next week.
Franks’ remark is exactly the kind of damaging comment Republicans have tried to avoid since a few Republican candidates sunk their campaigns with comments about rape last year, including Akin’s assertion that, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." The Missouri congressman thus doomed his promising chances of unseating Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. The Akin incident was followed by Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock’s remark that if a rape results in pregnancy, “that it is something that God intended to happen.” That cost him his Senate race.
“The Republican assault on women’s rights and opportunities never seems to end,” Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, a liberal women's PAC, said in a statement. “They’re supporting the same anti-woman policies that led voters to reject them during the last election, and trying to re-brand themselves with the hope that nobody will notice.”
“I am appalled by the arrogance of anti-choice politicians like Rep. Franks,” Ilyse Hogue, president of abortion rights group NARAL, said in a statement on the bill. “Today, he revealed to America that he knows nothing about the real issues impacted by the proposed bill.”