GOP lawmaker: Extreme abortion ban justified because of masturbating fetuses

Rep. Michael Burgess has seen fetuses with "their hands between their legs" as early as 15 weeks, he says

Published June 18, 2013 4:30PM (EDT)

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, said on Monday that he supports the proposed federal ban on abortion at 20 weeks because he has personally witnessed male fetuses with their hands "between their legs" pleasuring themselves at 15 weeks.

“There is no question in my mind that a baby at 20-weeks after conception can feel pain. The fact of the matter is, I argue with the chairman because I thought the date was far too late. We should be setting this at 15-weeks, 16-weeks," said the former OB-GYN during the House Rules Committee debate on the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act."

“Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful," he continued. "They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?”

Burgess' theory about "masturbating" fetuses isn't the only outrageous comment presented as fact to provoke outrage (and some head scratches) during the lead-up to the House debate on the doomed measure; on Wednesday of last week, bill sponsor Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., remarked that an exception to the ban in cases of rape or incest was unnecessary "because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.”

h/t RH Reality Check

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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