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US Congress lawmaker resigns amid surrogacy scandal

18 December 2017
Appeared in BioNews 931

Congressman Trent Franks has resigned from the US House of Representatives, following claims of misconduct related to pursuing a surrogacy arrangement with a former staffer.

Franks, who was serving his eighth term representing Arizona, resigned with immediate effect on 8 December. The Congress Committee on Ethics had unanimously voted the previous day to 'establish an investigative subcommittee tasked with determining whether Franks had engaged in conduct that constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opposing sexual harassment'.

It is unclear from reports as to how many allegations formally stand against Franks, although he does not deny discussing surrogacy with at least two former staffers. 

One former aide – who wishes to remain anonymous – alleged that Franks offered her upwards of US$5 million dollars to act as a surrogate, approaching her at least four separate times, on one occasion with a pre-drafted surrogacy contract.

Speaking to the Associated Press – who have verified that she was previously employed by Franks – the aide said she did not file a formal complaint because until recently she was unsure of how to do so, but that his conduct had made her feel uncomfortable.

Andrea Lafferty, President of Traditional Values Coalition, approached the House Speaker Paul Ryan about the matter last month with permission of the aide, stating she had been contacted for advice by the aide last year.

Franks in his own statement cited the struggles he and his wife had had with infertility during the course of their marriage. His own twins have been conceived through a previous unrelated surrogacy arrangement, which Franks states was 'a pro-life approach that did not discard or throw away any embryos'. A known conservative, Franks has authored many anti-abortion bills during his time at Congress.

In light of the plethora of sexual harassment claims which have arisen over the previous year, Franks stated that he resigned with immediate effect to 'avoid a sensationalised trial by media', having previously stated he would resign at the end of January 2018.

Aide claims Republican Trent Franks offered her $5m to act as surrogate
The Guardian |  8 December 2017
Rep. Trent Franks to resign after discussing surrogacy with female staffers
Politico |  7 December 2017
Statement of the Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Ethics Regarding Representative Trent Franks
Congress Committee on Ethics |  7 December 2017
Trent Franks, Accused of Offering $5 Million to Aide for Surrogacy, Resigns
New York Times |  7 December 2017
Trent Franks statement
Trent Franks statement |  7 December 2017
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