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WASHINGTON (USAToday.com) - Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said Wednesday that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is "very low," months after a similar comment led Todd Akin to lose a Senate race in Missouri.
Franks made his statement during a House Judiciary Committee meeting Wednesday on the Arizona congressman's bill that would ban abortions nationwide after the 20th week of gestation. The lawmaker's comments were first reported by The Washington Post.
Franks, a social conservative first elected in 2002, objected to a Democratic amendment that would make exceptions in cases of rape and incest.
"The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low," Franks said, according to a transcript.
Franks tried to clarify later in the meeting. "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," according to The Post.
Franks' pregnancy comment evoked memories of a remark by then-Rep. Todd Akin, who said in a TV interview last summer that pregnancy can be prevented by a woman involved in a "legitimate rape" because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said there is "no veracity" to Akin's claim.
Akin repeatedly apologized, but he lost support from top Republicans such as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and the Senate GOP campaign committee. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., capitalized on Akin's remark in the campaign, and she easily defeated him to win a second term.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said at the Judiciary meeting that she found it "astonishing to hear a phrase repeated that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is low."
"There's no scientific basis for that," Lofgren said. "And the idea that the 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."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic National Committee sent out e-mails highlighting Franks' comment.
EMILY's List, a group that helps elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, said Franks has "doubled down on ignorant commentary."
Franks said in a statement on his website that his abortion bill was prompted in part by Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortion doctor who was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of three fetuses inadvertently born alive. The Judiciary Committee approved Franks' bill, which could be debated in the GOP-controlled House next week.
"We, as a nation, find ourselves at a point at which we don't offer unborn children even the most basic protections - even protections we extend to animals and property," Franks said this month. "The trial of Kermit Gosnell exposed late abortions for what they really are: relocated infanticide."
Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY's List, said the bigger issue is the intent of Franks' bill and not just his comments Wednesday.
"The Republican assault on women's rights and opportunities never seems to end," Schriock said in a statement. "They're supporting the same anti-woman policies that led voters to reject them during the last election, and trying to rebrand themselves with the hope that nobody will notice."