Where Pa.’s 2022 candidates for governor and Senate stand on abortion
The divide between Pennsylvania’s candidates for U.S. Senate and governor on the right to abortion could be one of the starkest contrasts of the midterm election.
With the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, abortion rights are officially on the ballot in Pennsylvania’s 2022 midterms.
The open governor’s race will determine which party can sign or veto Pennsylvania-specific laws, and the U.S. Senate race could decide which party controls the chamber – and therefore whether abortion-rights or anti-abortion proposals get a vote in Washington.
Individually, the next senator could also play a role in either supporting a Democratic push to make abortion legal through legislation, or a GOP plan to strictly limit the procedure nationwide.
Some Republicans in Congress have pushed for a ban on all abortions starting at about six weeks of pregnancy, while Democrats want to end the filibuster to pass federal legislation to protect abortion rights.
Nationally, 61% of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. In Pennsylvania, most people support some access to abortion. While politicians in both parties have migrated to polar opposite positions on the issue, statewide surveys show the majority of voters fall somewhere in the middle — favoring some limitations but not far-reaching restrictions.
The divide could be one of the most stark contrasts of this fall’s midterms. Here’s what Pennsylvania’s Senate candidates and gubernatorial candidates have said they would do:
Pennsylvania’s next governor could have a huge say in what state laws look like regarding abortion. There is no “trigger” law in Pennsylvania, so abortion will remain legal here unless the legislature outlaws it and the governor signs it.
Several bills are pending before the GOP-controlled legislature, including so-called “heartbeat” legislation that would ban abortion after an ultrasound screening picks up an embryo’s cardiac activity, which can happen as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Many women do not know they are pregnant by that point.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano
Mastriano sponsored the six-week abortion ban and has said he would sign it into law as governor if given the opportunity. He’s said he also hopes to go further, saying he believes life starts at conception.
“We’re gonna have to work our way towards that,” he said during a GOP primary debate.
Mastriano has said he believes in no exceptions, including for the life of the pregnant person. He’s also said he’d end any state funding to Planned Parenthood.
“There is no greater issue in our generation than a right to life,” he said in a video on his YouTube page. “That’s why I introduced a heartbeat bill as a senator.”
“There’s so many issues across the state here, but it all begins with life, and the idea that in 2022, we deny science — that we’re still told it’s a blob of tissue in a mother’s womb. ‘My body, my choice’ is ridiculous nonsense here. … The idea that for convenience or inconvenience that we strike away a life is just unconscionable to me.”
Attorney General Josh Shapiro
Shapiro has said he supports current Pennsylvania law and would veto any attempts to further restrict abortion access in the state.
“I believe abortion is health care — and access to abortion must be protected here in Pennsylvania,” he said in a statement to The Inquirer. “If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the Legislature is poised to send a bill to our next Governor’s desk that would criminalize abortion here in the Commonwealth. My opponent will sign that bill. I will veto any bill to further restrict abortion access, and as Governor, I will continue to protect Pennsylvania law and the abortion rights of Pennsylvania women.”
Pennsylvania law protects access to abortions up to 23 weeks. From the 24th week on, if the pregnant person’s life or health is at risk, in consultation with their doctor, they can have an abortion.
“Here’s the reality of what’s going to happen in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro told CNN last month. “The next governor will get a bill on his desk to ban abortion, period. And it will be up to the next governor as to whether they will sign it or veto it. My opponent has said he will not only sign it, but he wants to criminalize doctors, jail doctors who perform abortions. I will veto that bill, and in vetoing it, I’ll protect Pennsylvania law.”
During a debate in Harrisburg in April, Oz pointed to his antiabortion stance as a key reason former President Donald Trump endorsed him. Trump “said that I am pro-life, and I am pro-life,” Oz said. “I’ve been very clear on my position throughout this race.”
Oz has said he believes in three exceptions to an abortion ban: rape, incest, and if the life of the pregnant person is at risk.
He faced backlash after a 2019 interview with the “Breakfast Club” radio program in which he expressed concerns about abortion restrictions. In the interview, which was featured in an attack ad against Oz, he is asked about an Alabama law that would outlaw most abortions in the state. Oz spoke against the law and in favor of access to the procedure. In the same interview, he also said he was personally opposed to abortion and would advise his family members against it.
Since launching his campaign he’s taken a more hardline stance, describing himself as “100% pro-life,” and saying he supports overturning Roe v. Wade.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman
Fetterman joined three fellow Democrats running for the nomination in late April in saying he did not believe in any exceptions to abortion rights. “That is between a woman and her physician,” Fetterman said at the Carlisle debate, when asked if he believed in any exceptions. “It’s certainly not between me or any politician. We settled this decades ago, and the fact that these states are trying to repeal it … we have to push back on that.”
He has said he would vote to end the filibuster to codify at the national level the right to abortion. He also said he would only support Supreme Court justices who support Roe v. Wade.
This week, his campaign said Fetterman specifically supports the Women’s Health Protection Act, which passed the U.S. House but doesn’t have the votes to pass in the Senate. The act would protect abortion rights up to the point of fetal viability, which is typically around 24 weeks.
It would establish a statutory right to health-care workers to provide abortions and patients to receive abortion care. The bill would explicitly ban certain restrictions that have been enacted in other states to limit access, including bans after six weeks, mandatory ultrasounds, and waiting periods.
“As John has said in the past, he supports codifying the protections established by Roe into law. This means that in the Senate he would fully support the Women’s Health Protection Act and the provisions it lays out to protect these rights nationwide. He would also like to see these same rights protected in Pa. under state law.”