NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who opposes abortion rights, testified during divorce proceedings that he and his former wife made a mutual decision for her to have two abortions, according to divorce transcripts released Thursday.
DesJarlais, who practiced medicine before going to Congress, easily won a second term in Tennessee's conservative 4th District despite previous revelations that he once urged a patient with whom he was having an affair to get an abortion.
On his campaign website, DesJarlais espoused an anti-abortion position, saying: "All life should be cherished and protected. We are pro-life."
DesJarlais' spokesman and campaign manager did not return messages seeking comment.
Court documents from the 2001 divorce trial were released by the state Democratic Party, which had hoped to make them public before the Nov. 6 election. They couldn't because the 679-page transcript of testimony wasn't complete.
According to DesJarlais' testimony, his ex-wife Susan had her first abortion because she was taking an experimental drug that carried potential risks in pregnancy. The second came during problems in their relationship while they were living together before their marriage.
"Things were not going well between us and it was a mutual decision," DesJarlais testified. "I don't think that it was easy for either one of us. I think it was a very difficult and poor choice and I think that there are probably regrets both ways."
DesJarlais' first wife had supported earlier efforts to release the court records, though her attorney said Thursday he hadn't had time to review them enough to comment.
DesJarlais in the court proceedings acknowledged having sex with at least two patients and he said he prescribed painkillers for at least one of them.
"Yes, she is a patient and I wrote her prescriptions," DesJarlais said.
He urged one of those patients to get an abortion during a phone conversation that he recorded. The congressman denied during the campaign that he had recorded the call, but in his 2001 testimony he acknowledged that he did. DesJarlais said he was only trying to get her to admit she wasn't pregnant.
The transcripts show that woman testified under oath that she had been pregnant. She declined to answer whether she had an abortion but said she didn't have a child by DesJarlais.
The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington last month filed a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Health arguing that DesJarlais conducted an inappropriate sexual relationship with a patient. DesJarlais said at the time that he doesn't expect anything to come out of the complaint.