The Tennessee Conservative Union is debating whether to ask Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) to resign his U.S. congressional seat after The Huffington Post reported that the "family-values" representative and doctor had a relationship with a patient in 2000, then encouraged her to get an abortion.
"We're very upset that he's broken his medical creed and the trust of the citizens of his district," TCU Chairman Lloyd Daugherty told the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
The group generally backs Republicans, but in 2010, Daugherty endorsed DesJarlais' competitor, the Democratic incumbent. TCU describes itself as the "non-partisan voice for the conservative viewpoint in Tennessee."
According to the Times Free Press, Daughtery isaiming to build a coalition of other conservative groups to call for DesJarlais' resignation. He did not disclose which organizations he was speaking with.
On Oct. 10, The Huffington Post reported on the transcript of a phone call between DesJarlais and the woman he was involved with. In the 2000 conversation, Desjarlais offered to accompany his former patient to Atlanta for an abortion and repeatedly mentioned needing to get the problem "fixed" or "solved."
"You told me you'd have an abortion, and now we're getting too far along without one," he said at one point.
DesJarlais, who describes himself as having "a strong pro-life record in Congress" and a "history of fighting for values important to Tennesseans," acknowledged having a sexual relationship with the woman after she came to him with a foot-related injury. He denies that she ever became pregnant as a result of their affair and also told his supporters in an email that he and his wife at the time were in an open relationship while trying to finalize their divorce.
In response to the increased scrutiny, DesJarlais has characterized the reports as an attempt to politicize what he sees to be an old issue.
Since The Huffington Post reported on the phone transcript, Mitt Romney's campaign removed its endorsement of DesJarlais from its website. Gov. Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) have also kept their distance.
Aside from the political issue of his stance on abortion rights, DesJarlais may also have an ethical inquiry on his hands. The D.C.-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed an ethics complaint Monday against the Tennessee doctor for violating firm rules against doctor-patient sexual relationships.
CORRECTION: The governor of Tennessee was misidentified in an earlier version of the story. The governor's correct name is Bill Haslam.