Republican Rep. Trent Franks pushed back against critics of his recent remarks about rape and abortion, claiming his comments were “taken out of context.”
“The reality is the bill that we have doesn’t do anything to restrict abortion before the beginning of the sixth month of pregnancy,” Franks told NBC News Wednesday. “And the incidences where pregnancy from rape that result in abortion after the beginning of the sixth month are rare. That’s all I was saying.”
“The reality is it’s not Republicans that are talking about this, it’s Democrats that keep forcing the rape issue into this debate,” Franks said, “They’ve done it ever since Roe versus Wade.”
Franks had been under attack after saying that “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low” during a committee mark-up hearing on the bill, known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans abortion performed after 20 weeks, using the argument that a fetus can feel pain beyond that point.
The bill was approved by a committee Wednesday, with all 20 yes votes coming from men, and is expected to be taken up by the House for a full vote next week.
NARAL President Ilyse Hogue slammed the legislation and Franks for his comments in a statement released Wednesday.
“Today’s mark-up would be laughable if the issue wasn’t deadly serious to millions of women across the country,” Hogue said. “On top of being unconstitutional, this legislation is a cruel attempt to roll back protections of Roe v. Wade. This mark-up is a disturbing gesture to placate the most right-wing and extreme elements of the anti-choice movement.”
“I am appalled by the arrogance of anti-choice politicians like Rep. Franks,” she continued. “The House of Representatives should be working on legislation to fix our economy, not wasting their time and our money re-fighting 40 year-old battles and undermining the health and safety of women for nothing more than political show.”
Franks remarks have inspired comparisons to former Congressman Todd Akin, a Missouri Republican who said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
The controversial quote became one of the top moments of 2012 and was widely considered to be a major factor in Akin’s 2012 Senate loss. During a House Republican Retreat months later, pollsters told the GOP to stop talking about rape entirely.
Franks’s comments may be another setback in the Republican party’s attempts to reach out to women, but they follow a series of controversial statements from Republican politicians in recent weeks. Since the start of June, Rep. Marsha Blackburn said women don’t want laws to assure equal pay, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant linked America’s educational problems to women in the workplace, and Sen. Saxby Chambliss blamed military sexual assaults on hormone levels.