Arizona congressman resigns immediately amid harassment allegations
WASHINGTON, D.C., December 8, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Details continue to emerge in the resignation of U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, with the Associated Press reporting that a former aide to the Arizona Republican said Franks repeatedly urged her to carry his child as a surrogate and at one point offered her $5 million to do so.
The former staffer told the AP that Franks asked her at least four times if she was willing to be a surrogate in exchange for money. The staffer requested anonymity, and the AP said it had verified her identity and that she had worked in Franks’ office.
Franks stepped down from Congress on Friday afternoon, instead of the previously announced date at the end of January, following allegations of sexual misconduct.
According to Politico, House GOP sources close to the complaint against Franks say he allegedly made unwanted advances toward female staffers in his office and retaliated against one who rebuffed him.
The sources said Franks approached two female aides about being a potential surrogate for him and his wife, though they said it was not clear to the women whether he was asking about impregnating them via sexual intercourse or in vitro fertilization (IVF).
The sources said as well that a former staffer also alleged that Franks made an inappropriate advance toward a female aide by having her read an article describing how a person knows they’re in love with someone.
One woman believed she suffered retribution after rebuffing Franks. She told Republican leaders that prior to the incident she had access to the congressman, but afterward that access was revoked.
Franks denied all of the allegations on Friday through a spokesperson.
He emailed a statement about the hastened resignation date, according to Reuters:
“Last night, my wife was admitted to the hospital in Washington, D.C., due to an ongoing ailment. After discussing options with my family, we came to the conclusion that the best thing for our family now would be for me to tender my previous resignation effective today, December 8th, 2017,”
Franks had announced Thursday night that he would resign from Congress on January 31, after the House Ethics Committee said it was opening a sexual misconduct investigation.
The Arizona Republican said in a statement he "absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff."
Franks admitted to discussing surrogacy with two former female staffers, something he said he only recently learned had made them uncomfortable.
Franks discussed the fertility issues he and his wife have had in the statement, including having used a surrogate to carry the couple’s twins. He also spoke of their three miscarriages, difficulties in trying to adopt, and a subsequent unsuccessful attempt at surrogacy that ended in miscarriage.
“Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others,” Franks’ statement said. “I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.”
Franks said his resignation was for the sake of the causes he loved, and to not put his family, staff and House colleagues through “hyperbolized public excoriation” brought on by the “current cultural and media climate.”
“We are in an unusual moment in history,” said Franks. “There is collective focus on a very important problem of justice and sexual impropriety. It is so important that we get this right for everyone, especially for victims.”
When news first broke of Franks’ resignation Thursday, it was unclear whether his conversations with the two female staffers consisted only of potential surrogacy. There was some debate on social media over whether the matter with Franks and his former staffers was something over which he should resign in light of other current allegations of misconduct.
Franks is the third lawmaker to announce he would step down this week after accusations of sexual misconduct. The others were Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota.
House speaker Paul Ryan had been made aware of the allegations against Franks and approached him about them.
After Franks did not deny the allegations, Ryan’s office said in a statement that Ryan had “told (Franks) that he should resign from Congress.”
He was a sponsor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban late-term abortions when a baby can feel pain, and co-sponsor of a bill banning abortion once an unborn child’s heartbeat can be detected.
Franks said in his resignation statement, “The process by which they were conceived was a pro-life approach that did not discard or throw away any embryos.”
Surrogacy is a controversial issue for reasons outside destruction of “extra” embryos.
Once conception is achieved, if there are multiple embryos implanted, usually some of the unborn children are aborted through “selective reduction.”
Critics also say surrogacy can lead to eugenics – with children aborted for not meeting the specifications of “commissioning parents.”
There are also concerns about breaking the mother’s gestational bond, objectification and exploitation of women, and the medical and psychological risks to the baby, as well as the specter of creating a market in human beings.
The Catholic Church considers surrogacy immoral because it infringes on the child’s right to be born to a mother and father whom he knows, and it disassociates the husband and wife.
Franks departs during his eighth term in Congress. He had served on the Armed Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee, and he was a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
Franks represented a solidly Republican district outside Phoenix that President Donald Trump won by 21 percentage points in 2016, according to NBC News. Franks was considering a run to succeed Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who announced in October that he would not seek re-election next year.
With Franks leaving office more than six months before the next general election, it is expected that Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey will call for a special election to replace him.