Anti-abortion US congressman quits after lover says he asked her to end pregnancy

A pro-life Republican politician, who allegedly urged his lover to have an abortion when he thought she was pregnant, has been forced to resign from the US Congress.

Tim Murphy, of Pennsylvania, will step down with effect from October 21, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced.

The decision comes less than 24 hours after Mr Murphy said he would retire at the end of his term next year.

"It was Dr Murphy's decision to move on to the next chapter of his life, and I support it," Mr Ryan said in a statement. "We thank him for his many years of tireless work on mental health issues here in Congress and his service to the country as a naval reserve officer."

Mr Murphy's downfall came quickly, within days of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette publishing text messages between the married congressman and Shannon Edwards.

A message from Ms Edwards on January 25 told the congressman he had "zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options", according to the newspaper.

A text from Mr Murphy's number in response said his staff were responsible for his anti-abortion messages: "I've never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don't write any more."

Ms Edwards, it turned out, was not pregnant. Mr Murphy recently acknowledged his affair with Ms Edwards, which became public as a result of her divorce proceedings.

The newspaper's revelation came after the House on Tuesday approved Republican legislation which would make it a crime to perform an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Mr Murphy, a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus, is among the Bill's co-sponsors and voted for it.

On Wednesday, Mr Murphy announced that he would not seek re-election, saying he would "take personal time to seek help as my family and I continue to work through our personal difficulties".

Mr Ryan said he supported the resignation.

"I've spoken to Tim quite a bit the last few days," the Speaker told reporters at an event in Chestertown, Maryland. "I think it's appropriate he move on to the next chapter in his life."

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is empowered to set a date for a special election to fill the seat.

The Post-Gazette also published a six-page memo apparently written by Mr Murphy's congressional chief of staff and dated June 8, in which she accused Mr Murphy of subjecting his employees to "threats, hostility, anger and harassment"

Neither Mr Murphy nor his office has commented on the newspaper report.

Mr Murphy is serving his eighth term representing a district in south-western Pennsylvania, including parts of suburban Pittsburgh. The district is a safe Republican seat, with Republican Donald Trump beating Democrat Hillary Clinton by a margin of 3-2 in last November's presidential election.

Mr Murphy, a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, was uncontested in his re-election bid.

- AP

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