Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) is resigning after the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into reports he asked two of his female staffers to be surrogates.
In a statement announcing his resignation Franks wrote:
Given the nature of numerous allegations and reports across America in recent weeks, I want to make one thing completely clear. I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff. However, I do want to take full and personal responsibility for the ways I have broached a topic that, unbeknownst to me until very recently, made certain individuals uncomfortable.
Franks detailed the struggles he and his wife faced with infertility, which resulted in three miscarriages.
“My wife and I have long struggled with infertility. We experienced three miscarriages. We pursued adoption on more than one occasion only to have the adoptive mothers in each case change their mind prior to giving birth,” he wrote. “A wonderful and loving lady, to whom we will be forever grateful, acted as a gestational surrogate for our twins and was able to carry them successfully to live birth. The process by which they were conceived was a pro-life approach that did not discard or throw away any embryos. My son and daughter are unspeakable gifts of God that have brought us our greatest earthly happiness in the 37 years we have been married.”
The congressman explained that he and his wife tried once again to have another child via surrogate once their twins turned 3, but that the attempt also ended in a miscarriage.
He added, “Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others.”
Franks explained that he had “recently learned” that the Ethics Committee had launched an investigation into surrogacy discussions he had with two former female staffers, which had made “each feel uncomfortable.”
“I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress,” he said.
The Arizona Republican noted that his resignation, slated for January 31, would bring the ethics investigation to a close.
“I am deeply convinced I would be unable to complete a fair House Ethics investigation before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would put me, my family, my staff, and my noble colleagues in the House of Representatives through hyperbolized public excoriation,” he said. “Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of January 31st, 2018. It is with the greatest sadness, that for the sake of the causes I deeply love, I must now step back from the battle I have spent over three decades fighting.”
Franks, a longtime member of the House of Representatives, has been a staunch opponent of abortion, introducing a bill in October that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. The bill, called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, was previously presented on the House floor four times.
As the Washington Post noted this week, Franks is considered one of the House’s most conservative members.
Franks’ resignation comes amid a wave of sexual misconduct allegations against lawmakers and powerful media figures alike. Earlier on Thursday, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken (D) resigned his post following accusations of harassment from eight different women. Earlier in the week, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) announced he would retire and not seek re-election after several former staffers came forward and alleging that he had sexually harassed them. In Alabama, U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore also faces several allegations of harassment and abuse from women who say he approached them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Moore has repeatedly denied the accusations.
UPDATE: In a statement on Friday December 8, Franks announced he would be leaving office effective immediately, rather than waiting until January 31, 2018.
“Last night my wife was admitted to the hospital in Washington, D.C. due to an ongoing ailment,” he wrote. “After discussing options with my family, we came to the conclusion that the best thing for our family now would be for me to tender my previous resignation effective today, December 8th, 2017.”