Open Letter to Representative Trent Franks: What Caring About Women and Babies Really Looks Like

Due to an editorial error, dates reported in this article earlier were incorrect. The current version includes all correct dates. We regret the error.

Dear Representative Trent Franks,

Today, I watched you debate during the markup for H.R. 3803, or, as you may know it, the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortion after 20 weeks in Washington, DC. I watched you valiantly fight to save “the children” from their pain even in the case of rape or incest, or when a mother has been diagnosed with cancer and the treatment needed to save her life is incompatible with the continuation of her pregnancy. I watched you warn the rest of the judiciary committee that abortions are linked to higher rates of suicide, even though this “fact,” and the basis for the bill itself (that 20-week-old fetuses can feel pain) flies in the face of all accredited scientific evidence.

And all I could think about was September 7, 2007.

It may seem strange to you. September 7, 2007 was nearly five years ago. Why think about that now? And why such a specific date?

September 7, 2007 was the night I was raped.

September 7, 2007 was the night that my rapist’s sperm met my egg and I was impregnated with the child of my rapist.

I thought about all of this as I watched you passionately advocate on behalf of “the tiny little babies” and the only reaction I could muster was “how dare you.”

How dare you, Representative Franks. Your claim of caring about the “pain of the tiny babies” rings hollow when one remembers your support of the Ryan Budget, which would have slashed over $36 billion from food assistance programs. You called them “slush funds” and “runaway federal spending.” This from a member of the House of Representatives, who makes more in a month than I do in a year.

How dare you, Representative Franks. Your claim of caring about the “increased risk of suicide” among those who seek abortions rings hollow when, again and again, you have voted to strip people like me of health care by voting for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the slashing of Medicare and Medicaid. These programs that I, personally, rely on so that I can afford counseling to help me deal with the trauma of being raped.  After all, “health care” involves your mental health as well.

How dare you, Representative Franks. Your faux concern for the physical and mental well-being of parents and their children is sickening when you have over and over again proven your concern for both is nonexistent.  

What about the parents who would qualify for health care coverage under the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (HR 847)? Does their pain matter to you? Obviously not, since you voted against that bill.  

What about the pain and struggle of working-class families, many of whom are facing foreclosure? That obviously doesn’t matter to you either, as you voted against both the Temporary Extension of Tax Relief (HR 4853) and Aiding Those Facing Foreclosure Act (HR 5510).  

What about the pain of immigrant families who are being torn apart by deportation? Their pain would have been at least partially alleviated by the DREAM Act (HR 5281), which you also voted against.

And the list continues, Representative Franks. You have voted against extending unemployment benefits multiple times, against providing aid to states for, among other things, Medicaid and teacher employment, and against food safety and environmental protection regulations.

And, to bring this letter full-circle, how dare you, Representative Franks. How dare you claim to care about pregnant people and the babies they are carrying when you voted to deny federal funding to Planned Parenthood, the very organization that helped empower me to keep my baby.

Because, you see, Representative Franks, after I found out I was carrying my rapist’s child, I was scared – more scared than you could ever possibly fathom. Originally, I went to one of those “life-affirming” crisis pregnancy centers, as it was closer to me than a Planned Parenthood.

It was there I was told that after I explained my situation, I was told that, face it, I would probably not make a good mother. After all, look at the “mess” I had gotten myself into. I was encouraged to “do the right thing” and give my baby to a couple who could “give it a better life” than I ever could. Why, I would have couples lining up at my door to adopt!  After all, I was young and healthy and, most importantly, white.  I ran from that center feeling more traumatized than the night I was raped.

It wasn’t until I took the hour bus ride to a Planned Parenthood that I was presented with the revolutionary option of carrying and raising my own child. I was given information about how to apply for runaway federal spending, er, excuse me, food stamps, TANF and Medicaid. I was asked if I had access to prenatal care, and, if not, did I know that I could get it right here? They gave me the information for a local rape crisis center that could connect me with counseling so I had some one to help me through the trauma that I had experienced. Yes, abortion was presented to me as an option, but it was in no way pushed on me. Abortion, adoption and parenting were all given equal credence. And, most importantly, I was told that Planned Parenthood would do their best to support me in whatever decision I made.

In case you are wondering, Representative Franks, this is what caring for women and babies looks like. Caring for women and babies is presenting them with true, unbiased facts as part of comprehensive program that supports a person no matter the choice they make.  

Caring for women and babies is not forcing poor women (as 42 percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, and 27 percent have incomes between 100–199 percent of the federal poverty level) to have babies, and then providing them with no assistance feeding those babies, or making sure those babies are born and stay healthy.

As Representative Quigley asked during the debate today, how can you, sitting in that sterile committee room, know what is best for a woman and her family? Or, to put a more personal touch to it, how can you – a white male, who will never have to worry about facing an unintended pregnancy and who is, I would assume, at the very least not struggling financially – know what is best for me – an unemployed rape survivor who has no idea if they will even have a roof over their head next month? The answer is you can’t, Representative Franks, and that is why you must do your best to support all options a person could possibly make regarding an unintended pregnancy, even if you do not agree with it.  

If you cannot do this, Representative Franks, then, please, don’t ever claim you “care” about me or my son or the millions of other families with situations like mine. Because, obviously, you don’t.


Bria Murray

A note on sources: Representative Franks’ voting record was provided by Project Vote Smart.  All facts about induced abortion (both statistical and those related to health effects) were provided by the Guttmacher Institute.  Fetal pain studies can be found in the Journal of American Medicine.

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  • adolmd

    Thank you for sharing your story and taking action! 

  • mirabel6

    This is a powerful, wonderfully articulate and eye-opening response to the ugliest of the ugly. I wish I could say Rep Franks would change his outlook after reading it but that assumes he could even take the five minutes to read and actually give your perspective an honest thought. The way Planned Parenthod is slandered up and down about abortion services has always been such a cowardly move by people who will never try to understand the lives of others. Thank you sincerely for giving readers a glimpse into your life and your immense personal strength. Wishing you the absolute best.


  • briaray

    Thank you all for your support!

  • jennifer-starr

    Thank you so much for speaking out, Bria and for saying what needed to be said. What a powerful and wonderful response. 

  • coralsea

    I hope Franks reads this — or someone reads it to him.  I doubt it will change his mind, because folks like him rarely do, but I do hope that it gives him pause, a twinge of embarrassment, and possibly, a decision to rein in the rhetoric and the obscenely heavy-handed actions against people who are simply trying to live their lives as best they can.


    Thank you for sharing your story, Bria.  All the best to you and your son!

  • courtneymikkel

    Wow, Bria! This gave me chills. You are spot on with every single segment of this letter, and I cannot thank you enough for being a voice for the countless Americans (and people around the world) who are marginalized, overlooked, and discriminated against by privileged, white, overwhelmingly male lawmakers. You’re so right-he will NEVER understand what it’s like to walk in your shoes because he isn’t you, and your reproductive healthcare choices are just that-YOUR choices. RIGHT ON SISTER!

  • danbert8

    This open letter is full of straw men…


    I was with you in the first paragraph.  I sympathsize with your situation.  I don’t believe the government should tell you what you can and cannot do with your child.  While I personally believe that abortions aren’t a good thing, I would never inflict my belief on others.  I am glad you decided to keep and raise your child and I applaud Planned Parenthood for helping you.


    However, what does that have to do with cutting the budget?  I don’t know Trent Franks, his policies, or his beliefs.  What I do know is that supporting budget cuts does not make one any less sympathetic to pain.  Cutting food stamps, health care, forclosure assistance, immigration, unemployment, medicaid, teacher employment, food safety, and environmental regulation are all red herrings.  They have nothing to do with sympathy or abortion.  Is he trying to inflict pain by cutting money out of the budget that we are currently borrowing from your child’s future?  I would like to think he is not, but let’s assume that he is.  Is he any less pro-choice by making the claim that people should have a choice what their money is being spent on or if their money should be taken by the government at all?  And what exactly does his gender, race, or income have to do with that exactly?


    Let me be clear.  I support your right to have an abortion or not to have an abortion.  I am an entitled, white, male who doesn’t want to control your reproductive rights.  However, I do want you to stop making the assertion that I am a callous and horrible person because I don’t want us spent into oblivion either.  If you want to be pro-choice, then go all the way and support a person’s choice to stop giving money to the government.  A person’s choice to choose to donate to causes that they believe in rather than having the government force their charity.   I am a huge fan of Planned Parenthood; my girlfriend even obtains her birth control from them even though we do not have sex.  But the federal government has no business taking tax dollars from people who don’t agree with Planned Parenthood to fund it.  If you support Planned Parenthood, than donate your own money.  Forcing others to fund it is not sympathy for women’s rights… It is intellectual sloth.  Rather than trying to control legislation, maybe you should focus your efforts on explaining to politicians like Trent Franks what they should personally believe?


    I don’t know what’s best for you, and likewise you don’t know what’s best for me or for the country.  Let’s err on the safe side and take government force out of the equation and let people voluntarily work together to make the world a better place.


    In summary: Being financially conservative and socially liberal are not mutually exclusive.

    Sincerely, All Libertarians.

  • colleen

    You guys ran backed RON PAUL, the Ob-Gyn of nightmares. My vote for the most personally repulsive male  social conservative running for President this year. (it was a very crowded field. the thumb on the scale was his spawn, the almost equally repulsive Rand Paul.)

    This year Libertarian presidential candidates want to overturn Roe and allow the individual  states to regulate the reproductive lives of all fertile women in the their state. This is not just an extremely bad idea, it’s also not a socially liberal position. Indeed it’s a far, far right position.






  • prochoiceferret

    However, what does that have to do with cutting the budget?  I don’t know Trent Franks, his policies, or his beliefs.  What I do know is that supporting budget cuts does not make one any less sympathetic to pain.  Cutting food stamps, health care, forclosure assistance, immigration, unemployment, medicaid, teacher employment, food safety, and environmental regulation are all red herrings.  They have nothing to do with sympathy or abortion.


    So Ebenezer Scrooge was always, in fact, quite sympathetic to Bob Cratchit’s circumstances. Sure, Scrooge paid him peanuts, didn’t offer him any extra funds to help with Tiny Tim, or time off beyond Christmas Day. But hey, it’s the thought (and only the thought) that counts, right?

  • kimg1967

    This is an incredibly awesome letter. Thank you for sharing it, and your personal experience(s) with us.

    I am genuinely sorry for the trauma you’ve had to endure, both the rape AND dealing with the “life-affirming” crisis center. I’d like to tell you — congratulate you, honestly — for your strength in dealing with everything. It sucks so hard that our government has done such a craptastic job in helping you, and everyone else who needs assistance.

    I’m right there with you in needing the assistance. Not for any sort of family planning, but for family sustaining. Three years ago I was laid off. I got unemployment, but lost my son’s SSI bennies because I “made too much” on unemployment. Recently, I lost our food stamps, because I now get SSI for myself. It’s definitely a no-win situation, and it seems like no one in the government is willing to help turn it around even a little bit.

    Thank you again for sharing this with us. Take care of yourself, and your family.

  • noworsethanusual
  • jennifer-starr

    And if they still have any brains up there–they’ll vote it down, because it’s a bad law. 

  • maiac

    …is the point flying over your head.


    You: “supporting budget cuts does not make one any less sympathetic to pain”

    Me: Sure, if you pretend that cutting food stamps, health care, forclosure assistance, immigration, unemployment, medicaid, teacher employment, food safety, and environmental regulation would not cause pain to real human people.