the national interest

No, Trent Franks Is Not Todd Akin

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 in Washington, DC. Franks is a co-chair of the caucus, along with Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). The bi-partisan caucus has attracted approximately 50 members.
Don’t Akin me! Photo: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Ever since Todd Akin exposed his boundless stupidity, and handed Democrats political gold, by insisting that raped women can’t get pregnant, liberals have been looking for more Akins. They think they’ve found the latest one in Trent Franks, who, in the course of arguing that his anti-abortion ban should not make an exception for rape, said, “Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject — because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.

It sounded like Akinism to a lot of liberals. The Huffington Post reported that the remarks “echo those made last year” by Akin. But this requires changing what Franks said in a crucial way. Slate reports the story in the headline “The GOP Is Talking About Rape and Its ‘Very Low’ Pregnancy Rate Again.” The Washington Post’s framing, tweeted by Jessica Valenti*, was similar:

But Franks didn’t say the “rate” of pregnancy from rape is low. He said the “incidence” is low. He didn’t say it’s hard to get pregnant when you’re raped. He said rape-induced pregnancy doesn’t happen very often.

Is that claim, which is different than Akin’s, true? Well, there are about 30,000 pregnancies from rape a year. I’d say that’s a lot. I suppose that if you’re comparing it to the total number of abortions, a figure that’s 20 to 30 times larger, you could argue it isn’t so many. From Franks’s starting point, in which which abortion is murder, the United States allows massive murder of human beings on an unthinkable scale, next to which 30,000 annual pregnancies looms small. If (like me) you don’t share his view of abortion, that 30,000 pregnancies looms large.

In any case, Franks was not relying on pseudoscientific nuttery about the lady-parts shutting down pregnancy in the case of rape. He was saying something different.

*This post originally attributed the characterization of Trent Frank’s comment to Valenti; in fact, it was the Washington Post’s headline.

No, Trent Franks Is Not Todd Akin