Where do Pa.’s U.S. Senate candidates stand on a proposed national abortion ban?

A proposed 15-week abortion ban introduced by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., would supersede state abortion laws if the legislation, which has already seen opposition from GOP lawmakers, became federal law

By: - September 15, 2022 3:20 pm
Democratic U.S. Senate nominee John Fetterman (L) and Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mehmet Oz (R) Campaign file photos

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee John Fetterman (L) and Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mehmet Oz (R) Campaign file photos

Since the U.S. Supreme Court decided to overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion access has become a cornerstone of the 2022 mid-term elections, including in Pennsylvania’s already high-profile U.S. Senate race.

The winner of the race between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz to replace retiring GOP U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey could help determine which political party controls the chamber next year. While Republicans need one seat to become the majority power, Democrats see the race as one of the few chances to flip the seat.

A proposed 15-week abortion ban introduced by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., would supersede state abortion laws if the legislation, which has already seen opposition from GOP lawmakers, became federal law.

Fetterman, if elected, said he would be a “HELL NO” if the proposal came up for a vote.

Oz, however, wasn’t as definitive.

“Dr. Oz is pro-life with three exceptions: life of the mother, rape, and incest,” Rachel Tripp, senior communications advisor for the campaign, told the Capital-Star. “And as a senator, he’d want to make sure that the federal government is not involved in interfering with the state’s decisions on the topic.”

Tripp did not answer how Oz would vote on the proposed ban if elected.

Graham’s bill prohibits doctors from performing abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and allows exceptions for rape, incest, or when the parent’s life is at risk.

Recent polling released by Franklin & Marshall College shows growing support among Pennsylvanians for keeping abortion legal under all or some circumstances.

Oz, who defended Roe v. Wade in 2019, has faced scrutiny over his stance on abortion, with Fetterman — who supports codifying Roe v. Wade in federal law and eliminating the filibuster — accusing Oz of flip-flopping on the issue.

The celebrity doctor told reporters at a press conference in Philadelphia this month that he would not support criminal penalties for people who sought or doctors who performed abortions. Describing himself as “strongly pro-life,” he added that he supports exceptions for rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is at risk.

But audio from a tele-town hall, held one week before the May primary election, fueled questions about Oz’s position on abortion. In the recording, first reported by The Daily Beast, Oz said: “Life starts at conception.” 

He added: “It’s still murder if you were to terminate a child whether their heart’s beating or not.”

The Oz campaign statement on Graham’s proposed ban seemingly plays to both sides of the debate, banning abortions aside from three exceptions and letting states decide whether to restrict the procedure.

Fetterman, who hosted a “Women for Fetterman” rally in Montgomery County to tout his abortion platform last week, quickly attacked Oz’s lack of clarity on the proposed federal abortion ban.

“This is not some hypothetical. Sen. Graham said during his press conference that the bill will come up for a vote if Republicans win the majority this November,” Fetterman said in a statement.

Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, spoke on Fetterman’s behalf at last week’s rally. In an interview with the Capital-Star, she described Fetterman as a “partner” to help protect abortion access at the federal level. 

“I think that Dr. Oz is just conveniently changing his position as many other anti-abortion politicians have been once they’ve seen the popularity,” McGill Johnson said.

The Fetterman campaign released a video on Thursday demanding that Oz take a formal position on Graham’s proposal.

“Yes or no?” Fetterman said in the video. “It’s not some TV show. This matters.”

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Marley Parish
Marley Parish

A Pennsylvania native, Marley Parish covers the Senate for the Capital-Star. She previously reported on government, education and community issues for the Centre Daily Times and has a background in writing, editing and design. A graduate of Allegheny College, Marley served as editor of the campus newspaper, where she also covered everything from student government to college sports.

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