Oz clarifies abortion views, Fetterman capitalizes on conflicting views in Senate race

Pa.’s position as an abortion battleground state this election cycle is taking shape in the nationally watched contest

By: - September 11, 2022 6:30 am
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

Pennsylvania’s position as an abortion battleground state is taking shape in the U.S. Senate race, with John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee, capitalizing on conflicting statements from Mehmet Oz, his Republican opponent, in the high-profile contest.

Fetterman, who said he would support codifying Roe v. Wade if elected, has recently focused on Oz, who clarified his stance on abortion this month, and his views on reproductive health. 

Oz 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.

The clarification comes after audio from a tele-town hall, held one week before the May primary election, resurfaced and fueled questions about where Oz, who defended Roe v. Wade in 2019, stands on abortion access. In the recording, first reported by The Daily Beast, Oz said: “Life starts at conception.”

“If life starts at conception, why do you care what age the heart starts beating at,” Oz added. “It’s, you know, it’s still murder if you were to terminate a child whether their heart’s beating or not.”

A campaign spokesperson told the Capital-Star that Fetterman is committed to holding Oz accountable on abortion access, kicking off with a “Women for Fetterman” rally on Sunday in Montgomery County. U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, and Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District, along with state House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, are expected to attend.

“Dr. Oz believes all abortions are murder,” Fetterman said after the audio resurfaced. “I believe it’s a decision that should only be between a woman and her doctor. That’s all there is to it. Oz can’t have it both ways.”

The celebrity doctor faced similar attacks over contradicting views from his opponents in the May primary. Now, Fetterman and his supporters — including Pennsylvania doctors — are highlighting the resurfaced audio to promote the candidates’ reproductive health platforms.

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political arm of Planned Parenthood, endorsed Fetterman earlier this year. Alexis McGill Johnson, its president, is expected to attend Sunday’s rally, saying in a statement that “the stakes couldn’t be higher” this November.

Oz, whose website says he is “100 percent pro-life,” did clarify that he does not support abortion-related criminal penalties for patients or doctors. But the GOP nominee has faced backlash from some Pennsylvania doctors, who have dubbed Oz “a major threat to public health,” citing his abortion views and history of promoting dangerous or unsubstantiated medical treatments.

“Though he’s tried to walk back his extreme anti-abortion statements, it’s crystal clear that Oz supports banning almost all abortions and taking away women’s freedom over their own bodies,” Dr. Meaghan Reid, an emergency physician in Chester County and co-state lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care, said. “Decisions around abortion are deeply personal and should be made between women and their trusted physicians — not by celebrity quacks.”

Recent polling from Franklin & Marshall College shows growing support for abortion access in Pennsylvania, with 37 percent of registered voters believing abortion should be legal under any circumstances. Fifty-two percent said abortion should be legal under certain circumstances.

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