Rep. Trent Franks, who has come under fire today for comments he made during a committee markup on his bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks without exceptions for rape or incest, worked to clarify that his point, however jumbled, was that “pregnancies from rape that result in abortion after the sixth month are very rare.”
During the committee markup this morning, Franks, R-Ariz., said, “The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.”
Democrats quickly pounced on the comments.
“Keep in mind the comments taken completely out of context,” Franks told three reporters in the Speaker’s Lobby this evening during votes. “This had nothing to do with the way that they tried to portray it. This bill doesn’t do anything to protect the unborn child until they enter the sixth month. By then all questions related to rape or incest are pretty much long since dealt with.”
Franks blamed Democrats for distorting his comment for their political advantage, complaining that Democrats will “talk about anything except six-month babies being tortuously murdered.”
“It’s still a distortion and they know it, and there’s not much I can do with it,” he said. “Unfortunately, perhaps I assisted them a little bit in the phraseology that allowed them to do it, but I will say without any hesitation that the question, the issue that I was responding to was how many pregnancies from rape result in a decision to abort the sixth month or after.”
“Most of the time when a mother has carried a baby to the sixth month, the notion that they abort because they were raped at that point is very rare. Very rare,” he explained. “I don’t know of any, but to say very rare is a very safe and accurate statement.”
Asked whether he believes the rate of pregnancy resulting from rape, about 5 percent, is rare, Franks said it is a separate question but he thought “that’s about the same as if it weren’t rape.”
“Those pregnancies from rape that result in the mother deciding to abort after the sixth month begins are very rare, and that is what we were trying to say,” he maintained. “That was the context. That was the debate we were having, that was the discussion that was being had there.”
Franks, 55, acknowledged that he talked to the “highest echelons” of House Republican leadership about the hullabaloo, but declined to elaborate on the discussion or reveal to whom he spoke about it.
“They understand,” he said. “They’re not persuaded by the false characterization of my comments.”
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner declined to divulge whether Boehner talked to Franks about the comments, saying, “We don’t tend to discuss the speaker’s conversations with members.”
A spokesman to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, however, confirmed that the leader spoke to Franks today about the comment.
This post has been updated to specify the legislation does not include exceptions for rape or incest. An exception for the health of the mother is included in the bill, however.