Despite Republican strategists’ efforts to keep GOP politicians from making insensitive comments about rape victims, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) channeled former Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-MO) infamous “legitimate rape” comment during a committee hearing on Wednesday. Defending his proposal to ban all abortions after 20 weeks with no exceptions for rape and incest, Franks claimed, “The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.”
As the Washington Post reports, Franks went on to nonsensically argue, “But when you make that exception [allowing rape victims to get abortions], 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.”
Franks is the latest male Republican lawmaker to opine on the validity of rape victims’ needs. In 2012, several GOP candidates lost the election after letting slip their ignorant and offensive beliefs about rape victims and what rights they deserve. Akin set off a media firestorm when he claimed that a woman could not get pregnant from “legitimate rape” because her body “has ways of shutting that whole thing down.” Franks stood by Akin at the time, declaring, “I definitely believe that he should still be a member of Congress.” Soon after, Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock told rape victims to embrace pregnancy as “a gift from God.”
These claims quickly collapse under cursory scientific scrutiny. By claiming rape-related pregnancies are “rare,” Franks is dismissing an estimated 32,101 women who get pregnant from rape per year. One study found that about 32.4 percent of victims did not find out they were pregnant until their second trimester — beyond the strict 20 week limit Franks is seeking to impose on American women seeking abortions. Half of those victims chose to undergo an abortion rather than keep the fetus or put it up for adoption. Some research suggests that rape victims are actually more likely to get pregnant, putting the number of women who became pregnant from rape in one year around 83,000.
Franks tried to walk back his comment Wednesday afternoon, saying he meant specifically that rape-related abortions after six months are rare. Ben Carnes, Franks’ spokesman, told TPM, “The intention was to comment on the number of abortions that occur at the sixth month and beyond (when the bill would take effect) as a result of rape, NOT the incidence of pregnancy from rape, though I know that’s what’s being reported.”