Who is Trent Franks?

June 12, 2013

Few people outside of Congress or Arizona's 8th district are likely to know much about Rep. Trent Franks (R). But the congressman is under a national spotlight after remarking Wednesday morning that incidences of pregnancy from rape are “very low."

His name is now likely to be mentioned outside his district with much greater frequency than usual. So, just who is Franks?

(Matt York/AP)
(Matt York/AP)

He's a 55-year-old, staunchly socially conservative Republican who was first elected to Congress just over a decade ago.

Franks, who was born in Colorado, cut his teeth in politics in the Arizona state legislature. He won a single term in the state House in 1984, where "he was known for wearing a tie tack in the shape of the feet of a fetus, as a constant reminder of his anti-abortion-rights views," according to the Almanac of American Politics.

In 1987, Franks was appointed to head the Arizona Governor's Office for Children, described in his official biography as "a Cabinet-level division of the Governor's office responsible for overseeing and coordinating state policy and programs for Arizona's children."

He later served a nearly five-year stint as head of the Arizona Family Research Institute, a group with ties to Christian conservative activist James Dobson's Focus on the Family organization.

Franks won his seat in Congress in 2002. He campaigned as a social conservative and has served in the House as one, too. On abortion, Franks has not been bashful about making his views known.

He has introduced a measure currently before the House Judiciary Committee that would effectively narrow the window for abortions from the current 24 weeks to 20 weeks. The measure was under consideration by the committee Wednesday, and it was there that Franks, who was arguing against a Democratic amendment to make exceptions for rape and incest, stoked controversy with his remark.

“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.

He 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.”

Franks's current measure on abortion is his latest input on the issue, but far from his only. In a speech this year on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Franks said: "Today marks 40 years of Supreme Court-mandated abortion-on-demand in America. And over 50 million innocent unborn babies have been slaughtered before they ever saw the light of day in the land of the free and the home of the brave."

In 2009, Franks introduced a bill to criminalize abortions based on the sex or race of a child, according to the Almanac.

Franks has also aligned himself with the tea party, joining the House Tea Party Caucus in 2010. He also belongs to the conservative Republican Study Committee.

Franks flirted with a Senate run in 2011. Many observers expected him to enter an open-seat race against then-Rep. Jeff Flake (R), setting up a potentially nasty primary in which Franks's hard-line immigration views would have clashed with Flake's past efforts in favor of comprehensive reform. Franks announced in April of that year that he would not run.

Updated 4:13 p.m.: Franks has walked back his comments, saying he was referring to women who were in their sixth month of pregnancy, rather than all pregnancies resulting from rape.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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