Rep. Trent Franks Resigns After Allegations That He Talked to Female Staffers About Surrogacy

By Melanie Arter | December 8, 2017 | 2:30pm EST
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) (Screenshot of C-SPAN video)

( - Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) announced Thursday that he is resigning after allegations surfaced that he talked to two female staffers about surrogacy.

“Given the nature of numerous allegations and reports across America in recent weeks, I want to first make one thing completely clear. I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff,” Franks said in a statement.

“However, I do want to take full and personal responsibility for the ways I have broached a topic that, unbeknownst to me until very recently, made certain individuals uncomfortable. And so, I want to shed light on how those conversations came about. My wife and I have long struggled with infertility. We experienced three miscarriages. We pursued adoption on more than one occasion only to have the adoptive mothers in each case change their mind prior to giving birth,” he said.

Former Franks aide Rebeccah Heinrichs explained the allegations to Fox News:

“The allegations are that Congressman Franks approached to staffers individually about the subject of surrogacy. He talked about surrogacy. He and his wife have fertility problems, and so he had uncomfortable conversations. According to him, he asked them if they would ever consider being a surrogate,” Heinrichs said.

“He never, according to him, he never put it to them, put the question to them if they would be surrogates for him. It’s an awkward conversation. It could make somebody feel uncomfortable, but to me that certainly doesn’t rise to the level of sexual harassment or some sort of abuse, but that’s what the claim is, and that’s what he says,” she said.

Heinrichs said she’s never “been made to feel uncomfortable by the congressman” and “never seen any slightest bit of sexual harassment or intimidation.”

Franks, who is pro-life, most recently sponsored the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy or greater with exceptions when the mother’s life is in danger or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

Franks said he and his wife used a surrogate to carry and give birth to their twins.

“The process by which they were conceived was a pro-life approach that did not discard or throw away any embryos,” the congressman said.

When his children were three years old, they attempted to use another surrogate, but that pregnancy resulted in miscarriage, he said.

“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. I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable,” Franks said.

The congressman said he “deeply” regrets that his “discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.”

“We are in an unusual moment in history – 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,” Franks said.

“But in the midst of this current cultural and media climate, I am deeply convinced I would be unable to complete a fair House Ethics investigation before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would put me, my family, my staff, and my noble colleagues in the House of Representatives through hyperbolized public excoriation. Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of January 31st, 2018,” he said.

Franks later issued a statement on Friday, saying he would be resigning effective immediately after speaking with his family.

"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,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he was briefed last Wednesday “on credible claims of misconduct” by Franks, which Ryan found to “be serious and requiring action.”

“The next day, the speaker presented Rep. Franks with the allegations, which he did not deny. The speaker told Rep. Franks that he intended to refer the allegations directly to the House Ethics Committee and told him that he should resign from Congress. The allegations were filed with the Ethics Committee last Friday. And today, the speaker accepted a letter of resignation. The speaker takes seriously his obligation to ensure a safe workplace in the House,” Ryan said in a statement.


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