Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) announced last week that he would leave Congress amid an investigation into whether he had solicited staffers to act as pregnancy surrogates. But his anti-choice legacy in U.S. policy is bound to outlive his tenure.
While in the U.S. House of Representatives, Franks pushed his hardline opposition to reproductive rights wherever possible—in hearings, legislation, and media appearances. Most recently, Franks made headlines as the lead co-sponsor of the GOP’s “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” a 20-week abortion ban based on the medically dubious claim that a fetus can feel pain at that point in a pregnancy.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) has already set a date for the state’s special election to replace Franks. Voters will take to the polls on February 27 to cast primary ballots and on April 24 to choose their next representative. In the meantime, here are six examples of Franks’ inflammatory rhetoric about abortion care, reproductive rights, and LGBTQ rights—words that will live on long after the lawmaker leaves Congress.
Franks Used Hillary Clinton’s Position on Abortion to Gloss Over Trump Describing His Sexual Misconduct on Access Hollywood Tape
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When audio emerged of Donald Trump describing groping and kissing women without their consent during a 2005 appearance on NBC’s Access Hollywood, Franks was quick to brush off the comments.
“Donald Trump’s words degraded and insulted women in the most flagrant possible way, and yet Hillary Clinton’s policy is to allow the murder of a half-a-million little tiny women every year,” Franks said during an appearance on CNN’s Erin Burnett Outfront.
Host Erin Burnett pressed Franks, asking “what policies has [Clinton] put forth that would support assaults.”
“The left has coarsened this culture in every way imaginable,” Franks replied. “It’s okay for adult men to walk into little girl’s restrooms. It’s okay to stand by with a golf club in your hand and watch ISIS sell little 6 year-old girls into slavery for 50 cents. It’s okay to kill your unborn children or even your born children if it happens that way, and it’s okay to marry your horse. But somehow when that manifests in a presidential campaign, all of a sudden the left feigns this outrage. And I think it’s them that started in the first place.”
Franks Argued Against Adding Exceptions for Rape to Abortion Ban by Falsely Claiming Pregnancy in These Cases Is Uncommon
Franks argued against a Democratic amendment to the 2013 iteration of his 20-week abortion ban. While Democrats sought to allow exceptions to the abortion restriction for cases of rape and incest, Franks contended that pregnancy resulting from rape was uncommon even though there is no evidence to support such a claim.
“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,” Franks said at the time, according to the Washington Post.
As the Post noted, “a 2003 study from St. Lawrence University actually found that pregnancy results from rape significantly more often it does in other cases. … A 2011 study from San Francisco State University found that, in Colombia, ‘female youth who have experienced sexual violence report significantly higher levels of unintended pregnancy and unmet need for contraception and lower levels of current modern contraceptive use compared to those who have not experienced sexual violence.’”
Franks: ‘Far More Black Children’ Are ‘Devastated’ by Policies Like Abortion Than by Slavery
Speaking with conservative media host Mike Stark in 2010, Franks compared abortion to slavery and suggested that pro-choice policies hurt more Black children than slavery had.
FRANKS: In this country, we had slavery for God knows how long. And now we look back on it and we say, ‘how blind were they? You know, what was the matter with them? You know, I can’t believe, you know, four million slaves. This is incredible.’ And we’re right, we’re right. We should look back on that with criticism. It is a crushing mark on America’s soul. And yet today, half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more Black children, far more of the African American community, is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery. And I think, What does it take to get us to wake up?
Anti-choice activists and legislators often equate abortion and slavery “because most people agree that slavery is morally wrong,” as Rewire’s Imani Gandy explained in 2013.
Franks: Abortion is the “Worst Human Rights Atrocity in the History” of the United States and the “Greatest Genocide Known to Mankind”
By 2015, Franks seemed to have forgotten about slavery when he claimed that legal abortion is the “worst human rights atrocity in the history” of the United States. Speaking that year at a September House Judiciary Committee hearing about claims made in videos recorded by the discredited anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress, Franks repeatedly invoked convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell—a man found guilty of first-degree murder for killing babies born alive after illegal abortions—in a speech connecting him to Planned Parenthood.
“It is the worst human rights atrocity in the history of the United States of America,” said Franks, referring to abortion. He said promoting abortion restrictions was a “basic test of our humanity and who we are as a human family.”
“Mr. Speaker, the sands of time should blow over this capitol dome before we ever give Planned Parenthood another dime of taxpayer money,” Franks said.
An archived version of Franks’ official website, which is no longer available, shows an even more alarming claim from the the lawmaker: “Abortion on demand is the greatest genocide known to mankind in the history of this planet.”
Franks Said Controversial Abortion Bill Was “Central to the Survival of Our Country and the Civility of Mankind”
Franks has led the charge in the House for the “Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act” (PRENDA). Speaking of a 2012 iteration of the bill, which targeted sex-selective abortions, and a 20-week abortion during a 2013 media appearance, Franks said passing such anti-choice restrictions on were critical to the continued survival of the country. As Right Wing Watch reported:
Franks: This issue as you know is one that I believe is central to the survival of our country and the civility of mankind. The other [bill] is the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act and between these two bills, one of them a legal conundrum and the other on just the human side, the notion that we make these little babies suffer this way, I believe that these two bills together, they have now made it into the Republican party platform, I introduced both of them some time back and a long time before Mr. Gosnell came along, but I believe that the two together have the most profound implications for Roe v. Wade. I’ll put it that way and drop it at that point.
During a 2016 hearing on Franks’ PRENDA bill, which would have banned both sex- and race-selective abortion care, Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, said the measure “perpetuates the offensive stereotype that Black women are unable to make reproductive health decisions for their own families.”
As Rewire’s federal policy reporter Christine Grimaldi has reported, “There are no studies proving sex-selective or race-selective abortions are widespread in the United States. Proponents of anti-choice measures like these often justify them by using stereotypes that target women of color.”
Franks Claimed Marriage Equality Could Threaten the United States’ Survival
It wasn’t just Franks’ rhetoric on abortion rights that was extreme. He also didn’t shy away from voicing radical opinions on LGBTQ equality. Franks said during an October 2011 appearance on the Family Research Council’s Washington Watch radio program that marriage equality would threaten the survival of the US.
Franks suggested that marriage equality is “a complete undermining of the principles of family and marriage and the hope of future generations” and that “it completely begins to see our society break down to the extent that that foundational unit of the family that is the hope of survival of this country is diminished to the extent that it literally is a threat to the nation’s survival in the long run,” as Right Wing Watch reported.
The organization that hosted the radio program, the Family Research Council, is considered an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.