Update on Dec. 8, 2017: Franks now says he will resign as of Friday, rather than at the end of January, as previously announced.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., is the third member of Congress to announce his resignation this week, saying that he had discussed surrogacy with two female subordinates.
"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."
Franks' announcement that he would leave Congress at the end of January comes on the same day that Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said he would step down and days after Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., resigned — both after allegations of sexual misconduct.
In his statement on Thursday, Franks detailed how he and his wife had "long struggled with infertility" and suffered three miscarriages. They had twins through a surrogate, but subsequent attempts to have another child by either adoption or another surrogate fell through.
"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 said.
The announcement from Franks came shortly after the House Ethics Committee announced it was investigating sexual harassment claims against Franks. And the congressman said that the investigation was the instigation for his decision to resign, because, he said, "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."
"We are in an unusual moment in history — there is collective focus on a very important problem of justice and sexual impropriety," Franks added. "It is so important that we get this right for everyone, especially for victims."
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement that he had been told about the allegations against Franks last week and that he "found the allegations to be serious and requiring action. 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."
Franks was first elected to Congress in 2002 and is known as a staunch conservative. He is a member of the House Freedom Caucus and has been an outspoken opponent of abortion.
According to Arizona law, it is now up to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to set a date for a special election to fill the seat. Franks' suburban Phoenix seat is solidly Republican, having voted for President Trump by more than 20 points in 2016.
The members of Congress who have announced their resignations are not the only ones with allegations of sexual misconduct against them — including members of both parties.
Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., has also come under pressure to resign after a former campaign staffer accused him of sexually harassing her.
Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore has been accused of sexual assault and allegedly pursuing teenage girls when he was in his 30s. He is in a tight special election next Tuesday, and while GOP leaders in Washington have pressured him to step aside, President Trump has since endorsed Moore and the Republican National Committee restored financial support for his campaign this week. Moore denies the allegations against him. Trump was also accused of sexual assault during his presidential campaign, which he has denied.
The House Ethics Committee has also opened an investigation into Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, who has said he will pay back $84,000 in taxpayer funds used to settle a sexual harassment claim from a former staffer.