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Here’s where the Pennsylvania Senate candidates stand on abortion rights

The issue could be one of the most stark contrasts of this fall’s Senate race.

From left, Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate Kathy Barnette, Jeff Bartos, George Bochetto, Sean Gale, and Carla Sands during a debate.
From left, Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate Kathy Barnette, Jeff Bartos, George Bochetto, Sean Gale, and Carla Sands during a debate.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

Governors will be in the middle of the next political fight over abortion, with the power to sign or veto state-specific laws — and potential bans — should Roe v. Wade get overturned.

But Congress could also have a significant say, and Pennsylvania’s Senate race this year could help decide which party controls the chamber — and therefore whether abortion-rights or antiabortion proposals get a vote.

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.

National conservatives are signaling their intent to push a ban on all abortions starting at six weeks of pregnancy, while Democrats on Tuesday called for ending the Senate filibuster in order to pass federal legislation to protect abortion rights.

The divide could be one of the most stark contrasts of this fall’s Senate race. Here’s what Pennsylvania’s Senate candidates have said they would do:


Senate Republican candidates have broadly said they support abortion restrictions, with minimal exceptions, though not all have answered at what point in a person’s pregnancy they would support a ban. Here’s a roundup of answers from debates and prepared statements:

Jeff Bartos

“This issue is so divisive because the government is in the way,” Bartos said at an April 26 GOP Senate debate in Carlisle. “We must protect life because that is who we are as a society. I believe life begins at conception. I do have exceptions to protect the life of the mother and in the rare, rare circumstance where the pregnancy is as a result of rape or incest.”

Kathy Barnette

“No exceptions, except for the life of a mother — not the mental acuity — but the life, the absolute life, then yes,” Barnette said at the April 26 Senate debate in Carlisle.

She has brought up her personal story — her mother was raped — in calling for abortion bans.

» READ MORE: What an anti-abortion ‘heartbeat bill’ would actually do

George Bochetto

“Today abortions are all too readily available,” Bochetto said at the debate in Carlisle. “I am the living personification of why there shouldn’t be abortion. If there was abortion, I wouldn’t be here. The sanctity of life is absolute — there are no exceptions. I would make one exception when the mother’s life is directly and absolutely at risk.”

As a baby, he was dropped off at an orphanage in Philadelphia, something he believes might not have happened if Roe v. Wade were law then.

Sean Gale

“Life begins at conception without any exceptions, period,” Gale said at the Carlisle debate.

David McCormick

“I believe in the very rare instances there should be exceptions for the life of the mother,” McCormick said at at April 25 Senate debate in Harrisburg.

In a statement Tuesday McCormick added, “If this leaked memo becomes the court’s majority opinion, it would be a huge victory for the protection of innocent life and rightfully puts the issue of life back into the hands of the states.”

Mehmet Oz

Oz said at the Harrisburg debate that former President Donald Trump, who endorsed him, “said that I am pro-life, and I am pro-life. I’ve been very clear on my position throughout this race.”

Asked about exceptions, Oz said: “There should be an exception for the life of the mother. We don’t want mothers dying as they try to give birth to the child.”

On Tuesday, Oz released a statement on the Supreme Court leak: “The Court is right. Roe was wrongly decided. Abortion laws should be left up to the American people and their elected representatives. I look forward to supporting pro-life legislation that saves innocent lives in the U.S. Senate.”

Carla Sands

“I am pro-life at the beginning of life and at the end of life,” Sands said at the April 26 debate in Carlisle.

In a statement on Twitter on Tuesday Sands said: “Pray for the end of Roe v Wade. This leak was intended to intimidate pro-life Justices. We must remain strong and always protect LIFE.”

» READ MORE: What Pennsylvania voters think about abortion, according to polls

The Democrats

On a debate stage in late April, not one of the Democrats said there were abortion limits they would deem appropriate for state or federal governments to impose. All four said they would eliminate the filibuster to codify abortion rights at the federal level. All four also said they would only support Supreme Court justices who support Roe v. Wade.

John Fetterman

“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.”

Late Monday, his campaign released a statement saying: “Let’s be clear: The right to an abortion is sacred. Democrats have to act quickly and get rid of the filibuster to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act + finally codify Roe into law. We cannot afford to wait.”

Alex Khalil

At the debate in Carlisle, Khalil said her mother, a devout Muslim, was given the option to have an abortion, which she ultimately decided not to do. Khalil said the nation needs to protect abortion rights and expand health care to individuals and their families going through that decision. “Abortion rights are health care, but it must be included with pre- and postnatal care,” she said.

» READ MORE: What is Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion access case?

Malcolm Kenyatta

“I’ve already stood up for this basic right, and I will every step of the way, and when it comes to any limitations — there’s always a limit,” Kenyatta said at the debate. “But that limit is between a woman and her doctor.”

Kenyatta is the lone Democrat running who supports expanding the Supreme Court from nine justices. On Tuesday, he doubled down on that promise.

“Make no mistake, we arrived at this moment because Mitch McConnell shamelessly packed the Supreme Court with radical right wing extremists. That is why, as your next Senator from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I will fight to expand the Supreme Court to reflect the will of the people and to restore the balance of justice in America,” Kenyatta said.

Conor Lamb

Lamb, who has described himself as personally opposed to abortion, has consistently voted for abortion-rights legislation, including the Women’s Health Protection Act in Congress. He has the backing of the National Organization for Women.

“If your right is a right, it’s your right the whole way through pregnancy,” he said at the debate in Carlisle. “This is a constitutional right that women have, and that they deserve to have.”