Meet the anti-abortion leaders Mehmet Oz wants involved in Pennsylvanians' health choices


The Republican Senate nominee for Pennsylvania stated during a debate that he wanted 'local political leaders' to be involved in making medical decisions related to abortion.

At a Senate debate on Oct. 25 in Harrisburg against Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Republican nominee Mehmet Oz argued that the federal government should leave decisions about abortion to "women, doctors, local political leaders." The local elected officials who could be making those decisions in Pennsylvania, though, include anti-abortion extremists.

Oz and Fetterman are locked in a close race for the open seat of retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Fetterman is pro-abortion rights; Oz is against abortion, claiming it is "still murder" at any point in a pregnancy.

At the debate, Oz claimed he would not try to legislate the issue as a member of the Senate:

There should not be involvement from the federal government in how states decide their abortion decisions. As a physician, I've been in the room when there's some difficult conversations happening. I don't want the federal government involved with that at all. I want women, doctors, local political leaders, letting the democracy that's always allowed our nation to thrive, to put the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves.

In an ad his campaign tweeted the next day, Fetterman points out that those "local political leaders" include state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor. "Oz would let politicians like Doug Mastriano ban abortion without exceptions," the 30-second ad states, "even in cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother."

Mastriano said in September that he looks forward to signing a ban on abortions six weeks after conception if he is elected governor.

In 2019, when Mastriano sponsored legislation that would have imposed a similar ban, he told Harrisburg radio station WITF that he believed, "If there's a heartbeat detected, when a lady's pregnant, there's a life, and therefore it should not be aborted." Rejecting the host's reference to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' clarification that what is often called a "fetal heartbeat" is in fact the electrical activity of cells in a fetus that would later become a heart, and not a heart itself, Mastriano said, "If it's ruled that that little person is a baby, a human being, then that's murder, and it has to go through the legal procedures."

Should Mastriano win the governorship in November and Pennsylvania Republicans retain the majority in the Legislature, a ban could well become law, as other Republican legislators have indicated that they support bans.

In May, the Centre Daily Times in State College reported that Pennsylvania Senate President pro tempore Jake Corman, at the time a gubernatorial candidate himself, said: "I wouldn't be surprised if we tried to move legislation, and I would encourage that we move legislation as soon as we're allowed. Clearly [ Democratic Gov.] Tom Wolf will veto anything. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to do what we can to protect the unborn."

Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler also indicated support for prohibiting abortion.

"I personally believe that life begins at conception. That's always been where I'm at. That is my own personal belief," he told Lancaster Online in May. "If we get the opportunity to pass such legislation, I do think it would pass and I would personally support it."

State Rep. Aaron Bernstine told Pittsburgh television station KDKA in June that he hoped that a ban on abortion six weeks after conception would become law. "I'm hopeful that when we get Doug Mastriano in office as governor, we will definitely be making that change. We'll be protecting children across Pennsylvania," he said.

State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz proposed a six-week ban in 2021, saying it would "save so many lives." The bill received the support of all 15 Republicans on the House Health Committee and had more than 60 co-sponsors in the House.

In May, Rep. Kathy Rapp, the chair of the committee, said in a press release: "I can confirm that Pennsylvania's Legislature is already well-positioned to successfully advance some of the strongest pro-life legislation in the history of our Commonwealth. … From the Pennsylvania House to America's highest court, we will never tire of defending innocent life."

Even in the Philadelphia suburbs of Montgomery County, where a majority of voters supported Democratic candidates in 2020, County Commissioner Joe Gale endorsed a six-week abortion ban enacted in Texas in 2021, saying it was "a step in the right direction toward ending the atrocity of abortion." In his unsuccessful campaign for the 2022 GOP gubernatorial nomination, Gale pledged to make Pennsylvania "a sanctuary state for innocent unborn life."

Fetterman has been endorsed in the Senate race by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

In a July 1 press release, NARAL President Mini Timmaraju called Fetterman "the leader Pennsylvanians need to represent them in the U.S. Senate" and said, "We know we can count on him to boldly fight for abortion rights and access."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.