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Franks’ remarks during hearing on abortion bill spark media frenzy

Rep. Trent Franks. (Cronkite News Service photo by Stephanie Snyder)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, created an online furor June 12 with comments in a House committee hearing that “the estimates of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.”

Franks’ office quickly clarified the remark, which came during debate on his bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, saying it referred to the number of late-term abortions resulting from rape. But not before critics jumped on the remark.

“His intended comment was about the incidents of abortions arising from rape, not pregnancies arising from rape,” Franks’ spokesman Ben Carnes said.

Though he added, “I guess that’s been what’s reported.”

It was reported by the Washington Post and quickly picked up by other media, including the New York Times, USA Today, Huffington Post, NBC and The Arizona Republic.

Twitter was abuzz with critics who compared Franks to Todd Akin, the Missouri Senate candidate whose 2012 Senate campaign was derailed by his statement that pregnancy could not result from “legitimate” rape.

Those comments were followed in short order by defenders claiming in other Internet posts that Franks is “no Todd Akin.”

The remark came during House Judiciary Committee debate over the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” Franks’ bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks – the point at which bill supporters claim a fetus can feel pain – except when the life of the mother is at risk.

Democrats on the committee tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to add exceptions to preserve the life “and health” of the mother or for a pregnancy that was the result of rape or incest. Franks’ argument against the rape exception started the outcry.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., was among many lawmakers who criticized Franks for his comments.

“I am stunned that some of my colleagues continue to trivialize the horror of a woman being forced to bear her rapist’s child,” Nadler said in a statement. “While they may be unsympathetic, they should not pretend that this doesn’t occur, or rarely occur.”

Nadler added that even if rape from pregnancy rarely occurred, those few women deserve support.

But Franks said later that nothing in the bill would prevent a rape victim from getting an abortion – if she did so before 20 weeks of gestation.

“Pregnancies from rape that result in abortion after the beginning of the sixth month are very rare. This bill does not address unborn children in earlier gestations,” Franks said in a statement after the hearing. “Indeed, the bill does nothing to restrict abortions performed before the beginning of the sixth month.”

Franks’ bill, which has 171 House cosponsors, originally applied only to Washington, D.C. It was amended last month to apply nationwide in light of the murder convictions of a Philadelphia doctor in the deaths of three fetuses born alive in botched abortions.

Franks cites those convictions as proof his bill is needed, even in light of a 9th  U.S. Circuit of Appeals ruling last month that declared a similar Arizona law unconstitutional.

The committee passed his bill June 12 on a 20-12 vote, with all Republicans and one Democrat on the committee voting for it.

“I look forward to a floor vote on the bill,” Franks said in a Facebook posting later Wednesday.

One comment

  1. Senator Franks, You need to focus on what’s self-destructing our people and nation. Those who survived only to be destroyed in the shredding machine created by the lawmakers. This is shameful as well.

    http://www.pewtrusts.org/uploadedFiles/wwwpewtrustsorg/Reports/Economic_Mobility/Collateral Costs FINAL.pdf

    O THE READER:

    WHY INCARCERATION AND ECONOMIC MOBILITY? Collateral costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility

    Over the past 30 years, the United States has experienced explosive growth in its incarcerated population. The Pew Center on the States reported in 2008 that more than 1 in 100 adults is now behind bars in America, by far the highest rate of any nation.1 The direct cost of this imprisonment boom, in dollars, has been staggering: state correctional costs quadrupled over the past two decades and now top $50 billion a year, consuming 1 in every 15 general fund dollars.2

    Looking at the same period of time, Pew’s Economic Mobility Project’s research has revealed a decidedly mixed picture of economic mobility in America. On the one hand, two-thirds of families have higher inflation-adjusted incomes than their parents did at a similar age.3 Given these favorable odds for each generation to earn a better living than the last, it is no wonder that, even in the depths of the country’s economic slump last year, 8 out of 10 Americans believed it was still possible to “get ahead.”4

    Less encouraging, however, are the findings that describe how individuals’ economic rank compares to their parents’ rank at the same age, as well as data showing that race and parental income significantly impact economic mobility. For example, 42 percent of Americans whose parents were in the bottom fifth of the income ladder remain there themselves as adults.5 As for race, blacks are significantly more downwardly mobile than whites: almost half of black children born to solidly middle- income parents tumble to the bottom of the income distribution in adulthood, while just 16 percent of whites experience such a fall.6

    With this report, our inquiry focuses on the intersection of incarceration and mobility, fields that might at first seem unrelated. We ask two questions: To what extent does incarceration create lasting barriers to economic progress for formerly incarcerated people, their families and their children? What do these barriers mean for the American Dream, given the explosive growth of the prison population?

    The findings in this report should give policy makers reason to reflect. The price of prisons in state and federal budgets represents just a fraction of the overall cost of incarcerating such a large segment of our society. The collateral consequences are tremendous and far-reaching, and as this report illuminates with fresh data and analysis, they include substantial and lifelong damage to the ability of former inmates, their families and their children to earn a living wage, move up the income ladder and pursue the American Dream.

    Doug Hamilton

    Deputy Director,
    Pew Economic Policy Group

    Susan K. Urahn

    Managing Director, Pew Center on the States

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