DesJarlais, who supported ex-wife's abortions, votes for abortion ban

The Tennessee Republican congressman who supported his ex-wife's decision to get two abortions was among those who voted in favor of a ban on most late-term abortions.

Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, was one of 242 House members who voted Wednesday to pass the bill, which forbids most abortions starting with the 20th week of pregnancy.

"Congressman DesJarlais was proud to vote in favor of this legislation," said his spokesman Robert Jameson, who added that DesJarlais has maintained a "100 percent pro-life voting record" during his five years in Congress and "has always advocated for pro-life values."

DesJarlais' support of his ex-wife's abortions, which occurred before their 1995 marriage, was revealed after his 2012 re-election to Congress in a divorce trial transcript. The transcript also showed the physician had engaged in multiple affairs with patients, and pressured one of them to get an abortion after she told him she was pregnant. The outcome of that pregnancy is unknown.

Since his initial run for Congress in 2010, however, DesJarlais has stuck to a pro-life, family values platform. Though the revelations of abortions and sexual misconduct helped fuel state Sen. Jim Tracy's campaign for DesJarlais' seat in 2014, DesJarlais eked out a win by 38 votes.

"Despite a fixation by his political opponents on the details of a previous marriage from the 1990s, the people of Tennessee's Fourth District have shown they care much more about the Congressman's job in Washington than the details of a divorce," Jameson said.

Jameson declined to answer questions about whether DesJarlais' ex-wife's abortions occurred after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the bill passed Wednesday "the most pro-life legislation to ever come before this body."

Other Republicans -- including Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., and Rep. Tom Graves, R-Georgia -- used the vote to tout their pro-life credentials in news releases Wednesday. The DesJarlais camp did not.

Even with House passage of the late-term abortion ban, the measure stands little chance of becoming law. Its fate is uncertain in the more moderate Senate, and President Barack Obama likely would veto the measure if it passes.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Contact staff writer Kate Belz at or 423-757-6673.