Feature

The War on Women is back

A controversial abortion ban passes a House committee, while a Republican raises eyebrows with a startling comment about rape

Republicans on Wednesday handed Democrats more ammunition to declare that the GOP's War on Women, a focal point in last year's elections, is back.

The Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a bill by a 20-12 vote that would outlaw all abortions — including those resulting from rape and incest — after 20 weeks. The current federal and Supreme Court-mandated threshold is 24 weeks.

Even before the bill's passage, Democrats were outraged over comments made by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), the bill's author. Franks defended the decision to exclude exceptions for rape by saying, "The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low."

To some, the remark echoed the "legitimate rape" comment made by failed Senate candidate Todd Akin (R-Mo.) last year. Akin's claim that women's bodies could magically detect "legitimate rape" and had a way of "shutting that whole thing down" to prevent pregnancy likely cost Republicans an easy Senate seat. It also spurred a Democratic campaign accusing Republicans of outright hostility toward women's interests.

Democrats on Wednesday immediately seized on Franks' comment.

"The idea that the Republican men on this committee think they can tell the women of America they have to carry to term the product of a rape is outrageous," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.)

Unlike Akin, however, Franks may have managed to steer clear of crazy town.

"Simply stating that the number of abortions in the case of rape is low (in relation to the total number of abortions) is not the same thing as Todd Akin's crazy, unscientific claim that women can't get pregnant from 'legitimate rape,'" The Weekly Standard's John McCormack wrote.

New York Magazine's liberal columnist Jonathan Chait agreed, noting that Franks did not say the "rate" of rape-induced pregnancy was low, but rather that the number of actual pregnancies as a result of rape are. Plus, he said, Franks "was not relying on pseudoscientific nuttery about the lady-parts shutting down pregnancy in the case of rape."

Franks may have a statistical case to support his comment, too. According to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, the pregnancy rate from rape is roughly five percent.

Still, Franks' remarks came off as tone deaf, especially since they followed other questionable comments about women that Republican lawmakers and pundits have made over the past few months.

As Congress debated how to handle the military's sexual assault epidemic, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) suggested the problem was an unavoidable result of "the hormone level created by nature." Former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) went further, accusing women of bringing the problem on themselves by joining the military in the first place.

And last month, following a Pew Research report that found women were the sole or primary source of income in 40 percent of American households, Red State's Erick Erickson said that men were the "dominant" sex, and that women should accept their "complementary" role in society. After receiving plenty of scathing responses, Erickson needled his opponents even more, saying "feminist and emo lefties have their panties in a wad."

It's no surprise that Democrats are quietly stockpiling all those remarks, part of a new offensive against the GOP. The Republican Party may not want a War on Women, but Democrats will make sure they get one.

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