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Exceptions for Rape, Incest Quietly Added into Franks' Abortion Bill

Exceptions for Rape, Incest Quietly Added into Franks' Abortion Bill

June 17, 2013 — The House Rules Committee on Friday revised Rep. Trent Franks' (R-Ariz.) 20-week abortion ban (HR 1797) to include exceptions for rape and incest, the Huffington Post reports. The move comes after Franks made controversial remarks last week about the low likelihood of pregnancy resulting from rape (Bassett, Huffington Post, 6/14).

Franks' bill -- approved by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday -- would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed theory that fetuses can experience pain at that point. At the time of the Judiciary Committee's approval, the bill included exceptions to save a woman's life in some instances but not in cases of rape or incest (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/13).

The revised measure now includes exceptions for when "reasonable medical judgment" finds that abortion is necessary to save a woman who was threatened by physical harm but not for "psychological or emotional conditions." It also includes exceptions in instances of rape or the incest of a minor if either type of incident has been reported "at any time prior to the abortion to an appropriate law enforcement agency" (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 6/15).

The Rules Committee will vote on the bill on Monday (Blake, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 6/14). The House is expected to consider it on Tuesday ("Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 6/15). The Democratic-led Senate is unlikely to ever take up the bill, according to the AP/Tacoma News Tribune (Abrams, AP/ Tacoma News Tribune, 6/14).

Revision Comes After Franks' Comments on Rape

On Friday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) hinted that the bill might be revised, explaining that he had received "a lot of discussion ... comments, input from members, and we're looking at weighing those suggestions and inputs as to how the Rules Committee will deliberate in terms of the rule and how the bill comes to the floor" ("Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 6/15).

On Wednesday, during debate on the measure before the Judiciary Committee, Franks said that the number of pregnancies resulting from rape are "very low." Later, he attempted to clarify that he meant pregnancies from rape "that result in abortion beginning after the sixth month are very rare" (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/13).

In addition, Franks has been replaced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Texas) as manager of House debate over the bill when it heads out for a floor vote on Tuesday (Smith, Politico, 6/14). Blackburn explained, "I think the reason that [GOP] leadership asked me to handle the bill is the amount of pro-life work that I've done through my years in Congress" (Rayfield, Salon, 6/16).

Opponents Criticize Bill Modification

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) -- ranking member of the House Rules Committee -- said the additions to the bill are disingenuous, remarking, "The women of America will not be fooled. Both versions of this legislation clearly violate the Constitution and severely restrict the rights of every American woman" (Huffington Post, 6/14).

Separately, Eric Ferrero -- vice president for communication for Planned Parenthood Federation of America -- said, "The provision House leadership snuck into the bill tonight is designed to shame and judge victims of violent crimes, requiring a woman to prove that she has reported her rape to police before she can access an abortion." He said the change was a "cynical political attempt ... to cover up the deeply ignorant and offensive views on women's health expressed by the bill's sponsor" (Politico, 6/14).