Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Here’s where the candidates for Pennsylvania governor stand on abortion

The only Democratic candidate supports abortion access. The nine Republicans vying in the May 17 primary all support limiting or completely banning abortion.

Left to right, Republican candidates for Pennsylvania governor Dave White, Lou Barletta, Doug Mastriano, and Bill McSwain during a debate.
Left to right, Republican candidates for Pennsylvania governor Dave White, Lou Barletta, Doug Mastriano, and Bill McSwain during a debate.Read moreCourtesy: PHL17

Access to abortion just became an even more central focus in the race to become Pennsylvania’s next governor.

The nine Republicans vying in the May 17 primary election all support limiting or completely banning abortions in the state. The disclosure that a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court supports overturning the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which found a constitutional right to abortion, will intensify the political debate in Pennsylvania ahead of an actual court ruling later this year.

Here’s what to know about where the candidates for governor stand on abortion access:

Josh Shapiro, the only Democratic candidate, supports abortion access

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the de facto Democratic nominee, had already been campaigning as a bulwark against Republican efforts to limit abortion access.

He stepped up that rhetoric Monday and Tuesday.

“The only way women lose their rights in PA is if our Republican Legislature passes an abortion ban and a Governor signs it,” Shapiro tweeted Tuesday. “I’m going to fight like hell, and veto that bill.”

» READ MORE: What you need to know about the 2022 Pa. primary election

The leading Republican candidates want to limit abortion access

State Sen. Doug Mastriano of Franklin County, polling as a front-runner in the Republican primary, noted in a televised debate last week that the first piece of legislation he introduced in Harrisburg three years ago would have banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

Abortions, under Pennsylvania law, are currently legal until about 24 weeks.

Mastriano said he would allow no exceptions for rape, incest, or a danger to the life of the pregnant person. He also said he believes life starts at “conception” and “we’re gonna have to work our way towards that,” a signal that he would also support a total abortion ban.

Former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta of Hazleton, another GOP front-runner, said he supports those three exceptions.

Citing his record in voting against abortion access, Barletta said: “As a governor, I would sign any bill that comes to my desk that would would protect the life of the unborn.”

» READ MORE: Get to know the 2022 candidates for Pa. Senate and governor

Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain of West Chester also supports the three exceptions, and said: “There will be seats at the table in my administration” for antiabortion activists.

Former Delaware County Councilman Dave White rejected any exceptions.

“I believe the sanctity of life and I would be a governor that would protect life. No exceptions,” White said.

Mastriano, Barletta, and White said a doctor who violates an abortion ban should be held criminally liable. McSwain said that would depend on how the law is written. Barletta and White said a pregnant person having the procedure should be “counseled” and not prosecuted.

What the rest of the candidates say

In another Republican debate two weeks ago, a total abortion ban was proposed by one candidate, Nche Zama, a retired cardiothoracic surgeon from Northampton County.

“I believe that life begins at conception,” Zama said. “We cannot be wishy-washy about human lives.”

State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman of Centre County touted his voting record in support of abortion restrictions and said he would support a ban at six weeks, with the three exceptions included.

Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale said he supports a total ban on abortions, and suggested he would recruit Republican primary challengers to run against anyone in the party who doesn’t support that position.

“I pray that Roe versus Wade is overturned and the power is restored back to the states,” Gale said.

Political consultant Charlie Gerow of Cumberland County, another candidate, declared himself “unapologetically” against abortions and said he would sign a six-week ban.

And former U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart noted “uniformity among the candidates” in the Republican primary on the issue, and also cited her record of votes on abortion restrictions in the state legislature and in Congress.