NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/NewsChannel 5) - Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais 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.
The 2001 court transcripts were released by the state Democratic Party, which had tried to air the documents before the November 6 election. A DesJarlais spokesman didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.
DesJarlais easily won a second term despite revelations that he once urged a patient with whom he was having an affair to get an abortion. DesJarlais, whose campaign platform opposed abortion, acknowledged the conversation but 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 elaborate on the outcome of the pregnancy.
On his campaign website, DesJarlais espoused an anti-abortion position, saying: "All life should be cherished and protected. We are pro-life."
According to DesJarlais' testimony, the first of his ex-wife Susan's abortions was because she was taking an experimental drug that carried potential risks in pregnancy. The second came amid problems in their relationship.
"Things were not going well between us and it was a mutual decision," he said. "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.
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester issued the following statement in responded to the transcript release:
"Congressman Scott DesJarlais' lies have come home to roost. Just like he abused his power as a doctor and violated the trust of his patients, he has betrayed those who have defended him by deceiving them about his affairs with patients. The power brokers in the Republican Party can no longer hide behind DesJarlais' shameful and selfish lies. Reality is staring them in the face. It's time they addressed these disgusting facts and held him accountable for his continued pattern of lies, deception and hypocrisy.
"He lied to us about his record when he ran for office the first time and he lied to Tennesseans again during his second campaign. DesJarlais has acted irresponsibly, his actions are contemptible and his tangled web of deceit is sickening. Scott DesJarlais should be barred from practicing medicine, and he should give up his seat in Congress to make way for someone worthy of the trust that Tennesseans instill in their elected officials."
Forrester has called on Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee's other top Republican leaders to demand DesJarlais give up his seat on Capitol Hill in Washington.
NewsChannel 5 contacted both the Congressman's Washington, D.C. office, and the Tennessee Republican Party office in Nashville for an interview on these latest developments. Staff members in both locations did not want to comment on the release of the transcripts.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press/NewsChannel 5. All Rights Reserved.)