Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Mehmet Oz called abortion ‘murder’ during the Pa. Republican Senate primary, recording shows

The recording draws renewed attention to Oz’s stance on one of the most pivotal issues in this fall’s midterm elections.

Pennsylvania Republican Senate nominee Mehmet Oz campaigns Monday in Monroeville, Pa.
Pennsylvania Republican Senate nominee Mehmet Oz campaigns Monday in Monroeville, Pa.Read moreMatt Freed / AP

Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz called abortion “murder” during a campaign event in May, according to a newly revealed audio recording, using harsher language with conservative supporters than he typically has on the campaign trail.

The recording of Oz’s comments, first reported Wednesday by the liberal outlet the Daily Beast and confirmed by NBC News, draws renewed attention to Oz’s stance on one of the most pivotal issues in this fall’s midterm elections. It could make it even harder for the GOP nominee to soften his position, as some Republicans have tried to do in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision ending the constitutional right to abortion. And it opened the door to renewed Democratic criticism calling Oz extreme on the issue.

» READ MORE: Where Pa.’s 2022 candidates for governor and Senate stand on abortion

“I do believe life starts at conception, and I’ve said that multiple times,” Oz said during a tele-town hall a week before the May 17 primary, according to the Daily Beast. The comments came at the end of a contentious primary campaign in which Oz had to work to prove his conservative credentials to GOP voters, and to walk back previous comments critical of abortion restrictions.

“If life starts at conception,” the celebrity surgeon said at the May event, “why do you care what age the heart starts beating at? It’s, you know, it’s still murder, if you were to terminate a child whether their heart’s beating or not.”

Oz, at the time, was working to explain his 2019 comments on a radio show questioning severe abortion restrictions pending that year in Alabama. While he had long described himself as “pro-life,” Oz had in the past also said he opposed laws restricting abortion access.

» READ MORE: From April: Is Oz really a conservative? We looked at his record.

But during the GOP primary, as he faced sharp questions from Republican rivals about his conservative bona fides, he declared himself “100% pro-life” and frequently said he believes life begins at conception. He said he only supports allowing abortion in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother, and in at least one public debate, only mentioned the life of the mother.

When the Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion in June, Oz struck a somewhat conciliatory tone, saying, “I respect those with a different view, but as a heart surgeon I’ve held the smallest of human hearts in the palm of my hand and will defend the sanctity of life.”

The campaign of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee, pointed to the May comments to argue that Oz would take a far-right stand on the procedure, and could be a Senate vote for criminalizing abortion.

“Oz knows his abortion position isn’t popular. That’s why you need a hot mic in order to hear it,” said Fetterman campaign spokesperson Emilia Rowland. “Dr. Oz is wildly out of touch with the people of Pennsylvania who support abortion rights.”

» READ MORE: Oz campaign dials up attacks on Fetterman after he rejects first Pa. Senate debate.

In response to the Daily Beast story, Oz spokesperson Brittany Yannick emailed: “Dr. Oz is pro-life and supports exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. It’s quite the contrast from John Fetterman who supports abortion up until the moment of birth.”

Oz’s campaign has painted Fetterman as the extreme candidate on the issue, after he said during an April Democratic primary debate that he doesn’t support any restrictions on abortion. Fetterman’s campaign later said he supports the Women’s Health Protection Act, a proposal to enshrine Roe v. Wade into federal law, which would protect abortion rights up to the point of fetal viability, typically around 24 weeks.

Abortion, and the potential for severe restrictions in some states, has become a rallying point for Democrats and a worry for Republicans since the end of Roe v. Wade, which has led to severe abortion restrictions in some states and the possibility of them in many others.

Pennsylvania’s Senate race is one of a handful that could decide control of the chamber, which in turn will decide if lawmakers might hold votes to enshrine, or restrict, abortion rights nationwide. Neither side is likely to secure the 60 votes needed to enact either idea in Congress.

A Susquehanna Polling & Research survey released Wednesday found that the economy and abortion are the No. 1 and No. 2 issues most likely to influence voters’ decisions in the Senate race, respectively. While voters concerned about the economy strongly favored Oz, an even larger share of abortion-focused voters, 71%, backed Fetterman, the poll found.