The GOP Is Talking About Rape and Pregnancy Again

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 12 2013 11:45 AM

The GOP Is Talking About Rape and Pregnancy Again

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Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) listens during a news conference for the launch of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus on Capitol Hill on September 15, 2011

File photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

If you thought that Republicans had finally learned to shy away from talking about rape and pregnancy, you'd be wrong. The Washington Post brings us today's pull-quote from the House, where an Arizona Republican waded into the never-calm waters:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), whose measure banning abortions after 20 weeks was being considered Wednesday 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. "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 of such an amendment."
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It didn't take long for Democrats to hear echoes of Todd "legitimate rape" Akin in those comments. "I just find it astonishing to hear a phrase repeated that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is low," Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, quickly countered at the hearing. "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."

Update 8:15 p.m.: Upon further review, I'm softening the headline of this post a little. It originally read: "The GOP Is Talking About Rape and Its 'Very Low' Pregnancy Rate Again." But as my colleague Dave Weigel points out, it's a little unfair to lump Franks in with Akin. Here's how he explained the nuance missing from the original reports on today's hearing:

[Franks] referred to "the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy," not the question of whether rape can cause pregnancy. "Incidence," as Jonathan Chait pointed out before I could, means the rate of something occuring. Franks was chiding Democrats for making every abortion debate about the most controversial aspect of abortion rights, arguing that 1) it was an outlier and 2) his bill wouldn't affect that. So, that's where the pummelling of Franks goes wrong. He's still making a lousy case for his bill.

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