Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidates want to ban abortion with no exceptions


Two of the four GOP hopefuls said they don't want any abortions in their state — even if the life of the pregnant person is at risk.

The leading candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Pennsylvania said he wants to ban all abortions in the state if elected governor and would make zero exceptions for cases of rape, incest, or even if the life of the pregnant person is at risk due to the pregnancy.

At a Republican primary debate on April 27, state Sen. Doug Mastriano — who is ahead in polls a few weeks before the May 17 primary — said he wants to pass a so-called "heartbeat bill" like the one in Texas, where abortions become illegal as soon as fetal cardiac activity can be picked up on an ultrasound machine.

"We're going to move with alacrity, with speed on the heartbeat bill," Mastriano told debate moderators, adding that in the legislation he doesn't want to "give a way for exceptions either."

Dave White, a second Republican seeking the nomination, also said he wants to ban all abortions in the state, telling moderators, "I would not have any exceptions. I would certainly work down to no exceptions at all."

Other top contenders at the debate — including former Rep. Lou Barletta and businessman Bill McSwain — also said they want to ban all abortion, though they said they support exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the pregnant person.

"Even though I am strongly pro-life, I have stated very clearly during this campaign that I would provide exceptions for rape, incest, and for the life of the mother only," McSwain said.

"As a governor, I would sign any bill that comes to my desk that would, would protect the life of the unborn, and I have made exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother," Barletta said.

Pregnancy can be a life-threatening situation.

For example, ectopic pregnancies — in which a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus — are non-viable pregnancies that are terminated to protect the life of the pregnant person. Molar pregnancies — in which an improperly fertilized egg turns into a cancerous tumor in the uterus — also threaten the pregnant person's life.

But Mastriano and White said they would not have any exceptions to terminate such pregnancies.

If elected governor, they would support total abortion bans like the one being considered in Missouri, where Republicans want to ban all abortions even for ectopic pregnancies, which doctors say will put people's lives at risk.

Polling shows those positions are far out of the mainstream.

A national survey from January found that 72% of Americans oppose the Texas law that bans abortion after six weeks gestation — before many people even know they are pregnant.

And an identical 72% of Americans are opposed to overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that grants the right to abortion.

The Supreme Court, however, is currently considering a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to pass total abortion bans like the ones the GOP candidates in Pennsylvania said they want.

In Pennsylvania, Republicans in the state legislature have tried to pass abortion restrictions. But Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has either vetoed or threatened to veto those bills.

"Since taking office, there have been six different anti-abortion bills introduced by members of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly," Wolf said in a January press release. ​"I have vetoed three of those bills placed on my desk for signature and vowed to veto the rest. Yet, members continue to advance additional legislation that would restrict access to abortions in the commonwealth.​"

Wolf is term-limited and cannot run for another term.

Democrats are seeking to hold on to the gubernatorial mansion, with current Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Inside Elections rates the governor's race as a "Tilts Democratic" contest.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.