Woman details abortion, relationship with "pro-life" congressional candidate
A woman who dated congressional candidate Mike Erickson seven years ago said she asked him directly whether he wanted to have a baby. He shook his head...
Newhouse News Service
A woman who dated congressional candidate Mike Erickson seven years ago said she asked him directly whether he wanted to have a baby. He shook his head no, she said, and paid for her abortion.
In interviews with The Oregonian newspaper, the Oregon City woman said she met Erickson in September 2000 and that she had the abortion in January 2001. They saw each other afterward, she said, even going on a trip to Mexico in March, before the relationship ended. She spoke on the condition that only her first name, Tawnya, be used.
Erickson agrees that he gave Tawnya $300 for medical help, and a ride to a doctor's office, but said he didn't know she was pregnant or planned to get an abortion.
Erickson, a Lake Oswego businessman, is the Republican candidate in Oregon's 5th Congressional District and is running on an anti-abortion platform. The charge that he provided money to Tawnya nearly derailed his campaign for the May 20 primary and could hobble his chances in the Nov. 4 general election against state Sen. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby.
Tawnya, now 34, recalled sitting with Erickson that January, parked across from the abortion clinic.
"I asked him, 'Are you sure you don't want a baby?' " she said. "He shook his head. I opened the door, got out bawling and crossed the street and walked up to the clinic."
Erickson, 45, said he dated Tawnya "for a couple of months." He told The Oregonian he didn't remember many details about their relationship, including where they met or when they dated. He said she betrayed no emotion during the car ride.
"Did I pay for an abortion? Absolutely not," Erickson said.
"She was having some financial troubles," he said. "She asked for some money to go have a doctor's appointment — not knowing what that was — and whatever happened, happened, I guess. I didn't even know she had an abortion."
Erickson has campaigned on a strict anti-abortion platform that favors abstinence education and adoption over abortion. His opponent in last month's primary, Kevin Mannix, spotlighted the abortion story in a mass mailing to voters a week before the election. Mannix did so without Tawnya's knowledge or consent.
Tawnya reluctantly agreed to talk after repeated requests from The Oregonian. She said she was motivated in part by seeing Erickson tell his version to television reporters before the primary election.
"I'm just sick to my stomach watching him be interviewed on the news completely lying about everything," she said.
The record shows an abortion was performed Jan. 30, 2001. She paid $300.
The record also shows she was accompanied by Kristi Oetken, identified on the form as her best friend.
Working single mom
Tawnya was 26 years old when she met Erickson, then 37.
She was a single mom of a 3-year-old girl, earning $13.77 an hour at a Milwaukie, Ore., warehouse and living in a small apartment. She let her ex-boyfriend move in to help care for their daughter.
Erickson prospered as president of AFMS, a fast-growing business that advises companies on ways to lower their shipping expenses.
They met at Mount Angel's Oktoberfest in September 2000, according to Tawnya and her friend Joy Johanson, who was there. Erickson handed her his business card. His title — president — impressed her. She called him.
They dated, Tawnya said, and spent time on his houseboat at Portland's Macadam Bay Club, cooking meals and playing hide-and-seek with her daughter.
She couldn't recall exactly when she learned she was pregnant or when she told Erickson. But she did tell him, she said.
"I just remember him being fairly solemn about it. He didn't tell me I had to get an abortion. He didn't force me," Tawnya said.
But he also wasn't going to marry her, she said, and she didn't want to raise another child on her own.
She scheduled the appointment and said she asked Erickson to take her there. He stopped at an ATM to withdraw $300 to give her. During the drive, he told her that because of work he couldn't stay, she said.
Oetken held her hand during the procedure and drove her home afterward.
Johanson, who worked with Tawnya at the time but hasn't stayed in touch, said she never spoke to Erickson about the abortion. But Johanson was relieved when Tawnya told her that Erickson would take her to the clinic and pay for the procedure.
"He took her and dropped her off, so she started freaking out," Johanson said. "It enraged Kristi that he just ditched her like that."
The abortion first cropped up two years ago when Erickson ran against U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley, a Democrat who is retiring after her current term.
Tawnya, a registered Republican, said she received a campaign flier with a photo of Erickson next to a baby, touting his endorsement by the anti-abortion group Oregon Right to Life.
The mailer made him out to be "some sort of safe haven for babies, and honestly, it made me sick," she said.
She called Oetken, who sent an e-mail to several news outlets calling Erickson a hypocrite and offering to tell their story. The e-mail was copied to Erickson and Hooley.
Erickson denied the allegation in a statement to reporters who inquired about Oetken's e-mail.
No news stories appeared. Tawnya said she wasn't ready to talk about her abortion then.
He tells different story
Erickson gives a far different account of events.
He said he thinks that a week or two before the appointment, Tawnya called asking for help with money to see a doctor. A day or two before the appointment, he said, she called to say she had car troubles and needed a ride.
He said he didn't ask her why she needed to see a doctor, saying he didn't want to pry. "I knew her pretty well but not like — it wasn't my girlfriend — but it was somebody that I had a relationship with," Erickson said.
Erickson didn't wait around. "She said her friend was picking her up and they were going to do something at the mall, or something like that."
Erickson said that he does not remember seeing Tawnya again after she left his car.
"I think we talked on the phone once or twice [afterward], and none of this ever came up. [We] never dated again," Erickson said.
The relationship ended, he said, when he learned she was sharing her apartment with her ex-boyfriend.
But Tawnya and Johanson said Erickson accompanied them on a Mexican getaway in March 2001, after the abortion. They showed documentation and photos of the trip.
Erickson said he believes the trip took place before the medical appointment, but he couldn't provide a date.
"She flew down there with her girlfriend. I was there with three other friends. It happened to be we were down there around the same time. That's true," he said.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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