Lancaster Co. House candidate loses Dem endorsements in confusion over abortion stance

Janet Diaz says she supports the right to choose; but the lawmakers had ‘no specific recollection of endorsing’ her

By: - May 16, 2022 9:40 am

Abortion-rights advocates stage a protest outside U.S. Associate Justice Samuel Alito’s house after an initial draft majority opinion he wrote would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

(*This story was updated at 10:54 a.m., on Monday, 5/16/22 to include comment from state Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery.)

LANCASTER, Pa. – Three Democratic members of the Pennsylvania state House requested they be removed from the list of endorsements on the campaign website of Janet Diaz, Democratic candidate for the 49th House District, amid concerns over her stance on abortion rights and access.

State Reps. Mary Jo Daley and Liz Hanbidge, both of Montgomery County, and Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester, are no longer listed on Diaz’s endorsements page. The three lawmakers appeared as recently as last Friday according to Jamie Perrapato, the executive director of Turn PA Blue, a political organization that aims to help get Democrats elected to “every level of Pennsylvania government,” according to its website

Perrapato told the Capital-Star that she reviewed Diaz’s campaign website after several volunteers and colleagues contacted her to express concerns about Diaz’s “commitment to expanding the abortion access protections of [Roe v. Wade],” the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that provided a constitutional right to abortion. 

“[A] position that became much more dire after the Supreme Court leak, and more important to clarify in the midst of a primary election,” Perrapato said. “Up until that point, we had only worked with Janet in a General Election, so I did not know the depth of her commitment to protecting choice or her position on codifying Roe.”

“I felt obligated to get clarification, as TPAB had so many volunteers and donors that supported Janet in 2020, that I just could not in good conscience ignore the issue with so much at stake, especially if our prior support in any way affected the current race,” she continued.

That’s when she saw “several strong pro-choice leaders” listed as endorsing her, “including Reps. Liz Hanbidge, Melissa Shusterman, Ben Sanchez [of Montgomery County], Tina Davis [of Bucks County], and a few others,” Perrapato said. 

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“I reached out to some of them directly in the hopes of clarifying Janet’s position, as I figured if she was supported by these strong progressive democrats, everything must be fine,” Perrapato continued. “I was very disturbed to learn that at least four of these elected officials either did not endorse or had no specific recollection of endorsing Janet for the 2022 primary […] Several of those elected officials asked Janet’s campaign to remove their endorsement from the website.” 

Diaz told the Capital-Star on Sunday that her endorsement page had been updated to include “Emily’s List, Latino Victory Fund, Represent PA and PA NOW.” She said she did “not remove Representative Mary Jo [Daley] … In reference to the other two [r]epresentatives I have no idea, I can’t elaborate.”

The Capital-Star also asked Diaz to clarify her stance on abortion rights and access, including whether she supports access to abortion throughout pregnancy, or only in cases of rape or incest, and if she plans to introduce any legislation concerning abortion if she’s elected.

“Government should not dictate what … women can do with their bodies,” Diaz said. “Republicans are interested in turning women into criminals, and as a woman I will do everything to protect our women and daughters. I support [women’s] rights and their choice. I will vote to support legislation for their freedom of choice.”  

“I will bring legislation to … help bring down [the] mortality rate especially in our women of color communities. Healthcare is extremely vital for our community,” she continued. “I would like to bring ‘Legislation’ for post-abortion counseling that will provide a safe and compassionate space for patients to reflect on their abortion experience and find healing from it. Women don’t want to go down this path, but that is a private choice between their Doctor, God and family.”

When asked for clarification on several aspects of her response, Diaz declined to comment further, citing an illness in her family.  

In a text message, Daley told the Capital-Star that she didn’t know why her name had been removed from Diaz’s campaign website.

“I did not, and will not, withdraw my support,” she said. “Janet Diaz would be a valued member of the [Pennsylvania] House of Representatives. It would be great to have her as a colleague. We need more Democratic women in the [Pennsylvania] House.”

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