A Tennessee Republican is making headlines for voting in favor of a national abortion ban, even after pressuring the women in his own life to have legal abortions.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) publicly opposes abortion and has repeatedly run for office as a pro-life candidate. Last week, he was one of 242 House members to vote for a proposed 20-week abortion ban that has become one of the top priorities for the current GOP-controlled Congress.
An anti-abortion Republican casting a vote in favor of an abortion restriction is not typically newsworthy. However, DesJarlais’ positions on the subject are particularly controversial, thanks to evidence that emerged in 2012 that revealed he has advocated for at least three legal abortions in his personal life.
Three years ago, transcripts related to the congressman’s divorce trial showed that DesJarlais supported his ex-wife’s decision to legally end two pregnancies. He also had several extramarital affairs, and once pressured a 24-year-old woman to have an abortion after she told him she was pregnant with his child. “You told me you’d have an abortion, and now we’re getting too far along without one,” DesJarlais told the woman in a recorded phone conversation. “If we need to go to Atlanta, or whatever, to get this solved and get it over with so we can get on with our lives, then let’s do it.”
This reminds me of people asserting that when John McCain said that if his daughter wanted an abortion he’d leave it up to her, this showed that he was really a moderate on abortion rights. The problem with this is that the formal legal status of abortion is essentially irrelevant to whether the wives, mistresses, and daughters of people like Scott DesJarlais and John McCain will be able to obtain safe abortions. They are fully aware of this when they vote for every abortion regulation and ban to come down the pike. And the disjuncture also illustrates that these votes are appalling. All women should have access to safe, legal abortions, not just women who are affluent or who have access to the patronage of people like Scott DesJarlais.