By Elise Viebeck - 06/12/13 05:03 PM EDT
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday that the incidence of pregnancy caused by rape is "very low," prompting criticism from Democrats who said the GOP is waging a "war on women."
The Republican lawmaker was arguing against a Democratic amendment allowing rape and incest victims to procure abortions. As written, the bill only exempts women whose lives are in danger.
"You know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low," Franks said.
He added that the Democratic amendment should have included a requirement that rape and incest victims report the crimes against them.
The measure from Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) later failed, collecting 13 ayes.
The Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee soon circulated Franks's comments in emails that
mocked the GOP's effort to court women voters.
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee also blasted Franks and alluded to past controversies over GOP statements on rape and pregnancy.
Former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) was widely panned during his failed 2012 Senate bid when he said that cases of "legitimate rape" rarely lead to pregnancy.
Former Senate candidate Richard Mourdock (R) also landed in hot water when he said that "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something God intended" to happen.
Judiciary Committee member Zoe Lofgren drew a comparison Wednesday between Franks's comment and Akin's.
"I just find it astonishing to hear a phrase repeated that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is low,” Lofgren said.
“There’s no scientific basis for that," she added. "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."
When the mark-up resumed after a lunch break, Franks denied he had said that rape rarely results in pregnancy and blasted Democrats for "trying to inject that issue."
Franks said he meant that late-term abortions performed on victims of rape are infrequent.
"I would hope that my comments would be heard in the spirit that they were offered," he said.The GOP-led panel later rejected an amendment to exempt women whose health is in danger from the abortion ban. The measure from Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) would have also widened the bill's life-in-danger exception.
Nadler characterized Franks's legislation as "another battle in the Republican war on women."