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Congressman: Rape, pregnancy comment out of context

Rep. Trent Franks, R-AZ, attempted to amend his comment Wednesday that "the incidence of rape and pregnancy are very low." (Source: House TV) Rep. Trent Franks, R-AZ, attempted to amend his comment Wednesday that "the incidence of rape and pregnancy are very low." (Source: House TV)
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WASHINGTON (RNN) – Rep. Trent Franks, R-AZ, has scrambled to recover from a controversial and untrue statement he made Wednesday regarding rape and abortion.

"Before my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest a subject because you know – the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low," Franks said. "When you make that exception, there is usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours. But in this case, it's impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation."

The comment came during a House debate on his proposal to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Federal law gives women the right to have an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks, although some state laws have different time limits.

Franks later said he was taken out of context.

"The reality is the bill that we have doesn't do anything to restrict abortion before the beginning of the sixth month of pregnancy," he told NBC News Wednesday. "The incidences where pregnancy from rape that result in abortion after the beginning of the sixth months are rare. That's all I was saying."

He did not say whether his amended idea was based on any studies or research.

The comment brought back the recent memory of former congressman and Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri. The Republican said during an August TV interview that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant.

Akin, who led in polls against Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO, before the statement, lost the election.

A 1996 study published in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology stated rape-related pregnancies occurred "with significant frequency." It stated the rate was 5 percent, or an estimated 32,101 per year.

Studies from other countries reported the rate to be much higher, according to The Atlantic.

In response to Akin, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a statement. The group reported 10,000 to 15,000 abortions happened each year in the U.S. among women whose pregnancies are a result of reported rape or incest.

"An unknown number of pregnancies resulting from rape are carried to term," the statement continued. "There is absolutely no veracity to the claim that ‘If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.' A woman who is raped has no control over ovulation, fertilization, or implantation of a fertilized egg (i.e., pregnancy). To suggest otherwise contradicts basic biological truths."

Frank's Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which cleared a House subcommittee June 4, argues a fetus can feel pain at the point in the pregnancy. However, that has been disputed as well: A 2011 University College London study stated fetuses cannot differentiate from pain and general touch until 35 to 37 weeks.

The bill is expected to be taken up by the full House next week.

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