GOP congressman: Rate of pregnancies from rape is ‘very low’

Another Republican congressman ventured into the realm of rape and pregnancy Wednesday, saying at a committee hearing that incidences of pregnancy from rape are “very low.”

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), whose measure banning abortions after 20 weeks was being considered in the House Judiciary Committee, argued against a Democratic amendment to make exceptions for rape and incest by suggesting that pregnancy from rape is rare.

"Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject -- because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low," Franks said.

Franks continued: "But when you make that exception, 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 for such an amendment."

Democrats on the committee, including Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), responded by pointing to similar comments made by then-Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) in his 2012 Senate campaign. Akin suggested that the female body can prevent pregnancy from occurring after a "legitimate rape" -- a claim that is not backed up by scientific research and for which Akin apologized.

“I just find it astonishing to hear a phrase repeated that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is low," Lofgren said. "There’s no scientific basis for that. And the idea that the Republican men on this committee can tell the women of America that they have to carry to term the product of a rape is outrageous."

As the Post's Sarah Kliff noted at the time of Akin's comments, a 2003 study from St. Lawrence University actually found that pregnancy results from rape significantly more often it does in other cases.

A 2011 study from San Francisco State University found that, in Colombia, "female youth who have experienced sexual violence report significantly higher levels of unintended pregnancy and unmet need for contraception and lower levels of current modern contraceptive use compared to those who have not experienced sexual violence."

Democrats quickly sought to tie other Republicans to the comment. At least one Republican was distancing himself from Franks, with Massachusetts special Senate election candidate Gabriel Gomez repeatedly calling Franks a "moron."

Franks is one of the leading social conservatives in Congress.

His measure would effectively narrow the window for abortions from the current 24 weeks to 20 weeks.

Updated at 12:32 p.m. to reflect Franks's full quote.

Update 2:18 p.m.: The committee has passed Franks's bill on a party-line vote.

Update 3:06 p.m.: In a statement sent to CBS News, Franks sought to clarify his comment, saying he meant to refer to women seeking abortions in the sixth month. "Pregnancies from rape that result in abortion after the beginning of the sixth month are very rare," he said. "This bill does not address unborn children in earlier gestations. Indeed, the bill does nothing to restrict abortions performed before the beginning of the 6th month."

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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