Trent Franks: 'The Incidence Of Rape Resulting In Pregnancy Are Very Low'

06/12/2013 12:38 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2013

During a House Judiciary hearing on his abortion bill Wednesday, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said that he opposes an exemption for rape victims because "the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low."

The Arizona Republican's comments echo those made last year by former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who notoriously claimed that women cannot become pregnant from "legitimate rape."

Like Akin's, Franks's claim is not supported by research. Medical experts agree that rape does not lower the incidence of pregnancy, and one study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that more than 30,000 pregnancies result from rape in the United States each year.

Franks is seeking a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, and his bill, The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, would only allow women who would die without an abortion procedure to procure one after 20 weeks of fertilization. The bill challenges a Supreme Court precedent that protects women's right to have an abortion until the fetus would be viable outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks of pregnancy.

While all of the Democrats on the judiciary committee oppose the bill, Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) tried to amend it on Wednesday to include exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the woman. The bill's current exemptions only apply when there is a great risk of "death of the pregnant woman" or "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."

Nadler's amendment would include an exception for women who are at risk of psychological impairment or suicide, or other long-lasting health damage that would not necessarily result in death.

Republicans on the committee unanimously voted against the amendments, arguing that the rape and incest exceptions were unacceptable due to the length of time that those women would have to make their decision.

"Even if you reported [the rape or incest] within 48 hours, to wait until 20 weeks to have the abortion performed would be absolutely unacceptable," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the committee's chairman.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) countered that her colleagues were in not a position understand what goes on in the life or mind of a young girl who has been raped by her father, for example, and why it might take someone so long to make such a decision.

"The idea that Republican men on this committee think they can tell the women of America that they have to carry to term the product of a rape is outrageous," she said.

Regarding the exception for the health of the woman, Franks said he opposed the amendment because it could easily be "extrapolated into abortion on demand."

The bill is expected to pass the committee on Wednesday, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has indicated that he will bring it to the floor for a full vote next week.

UPDATE: 3:25 p.m. -- In a series of tweets Wednesday afternoon, NBC News producer Frank Thorp wrote that Franks walked back his comments about rape and pregnancy in an interview.

"I'm talking about the incidences where pregnancy from rape results in an abortion after the sixth month or beyond are very rare," Franks said, according to Thorp.

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