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GOP congressman draws fire for comments on pregancy and rape

A conservative Republican congressman on Wednesday argued against a Democratic effort to add exceptions to legislation barring abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy by explaining that the occurrences of pregnancy as a result of rape “are very low.”

Democrats seized on remarks made by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., during a markup of his legislation to ban abortions after the 20th week of gestation. The whole House of Representatives is set to take up the legislation next week.

Franks was arguing against a Democratic amendment looking to broaden exceptions in Franks's legislation for cases of rape and incest.

"The point I was trying to make, Mr. Nadler, was that before when my friends on the left side of the aisle tried to make rape and incest the subject because the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low," he said to a Democratic colleague, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York. "But when you make that exception, there's usually the 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 -- vitiates the purpose for such an amendment."

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., talks about pregnancies due to rape at a House markup of an unborn child protection act Wednesday.

Democrats said that Franks's remarks conjured up memories of the controversial campaign trail comments made by Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., during his Senate campaign last year. Akin said that "legitimate rape" rarely leads to pregnancy, an incendiary comment that doomed his campaign and gave Democrats fodder to use against Republicans nationwide during last year's elections. Akin lost his Senate race against Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. (Franks said his comments were in response to a  “completely different question” related to “how a person becomes pregnant”.)

"The reality is, it's not Republicans that are talking about this. It's Democrats that keep forcing the rape issue into this debate. They've done it ever since Roe v. Wade," Franks later told reporters on Capitol Hill.

He said that, despite his words, he was not commenting on the pure statistics regarding pregnancies that result in rape, but rather, the number of abortions performed during pregnancies that result in rape following the 20th week of gestation.

"The incidences where pregnancy results from rape that results in abortion at the six month or after are very rare," Franks added, explaining that his remarks were "in the context of the debate about a bill that dealt with protecting unborn children at six months--six months and beyond."

Following Akin's remark last year, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wrote in a statement:

“Each year in the US, 10,000–15,000 abortions occur among women whose pregnancies are a result of reported rape or incest. An unknown number of pregnancies resulting from rape are carried to term. There is absolutely no veracity to the claim that ‘If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.’ A woman who is raped has no control over ovulation, fertilization, or implantation of a fertilized egg (ie, pregnancy). To suggest otherwise contradicts basic biological truths.”