The House Judiciary on Wednesday approved a national late-term abortion ban that is due on the floor next week. The bill from Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) would ban nearly all abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, making an exception only for women whose lives are in danger. This narrow exemption was the subject of debate during the bill's markup, with Republicans unanimously blocking three amendments to make the terms more generous to rape and incest victims, as well as to women whose health is at risk.
At first, Franks's ban was written only to affect the District of the Columbia — it was the revival of a bill that failed to pass the House last year under suspension of the rules. But Franks expanded it to apply nationwide after the recent murder conviction of abortion provider Kermit Gosnell, which has been a rallying cry for opponents of abortion rights.
Wednesday's markup drew wide attention after Franks commented that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is "very low." The remark drew criticism from Democrats and comparisons between Franks and former GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin (Mo.), who famously said that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely become pregnant. Franks later clarified that he meant to describe the low number of rape-induced pregnancies compared with those tied to normal intercourse. "I would hope that my comments would be heard in the spirit that they were offered," he said.