Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn
Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Constitution does not protect abortion as a right, allowing for different states to ban or restrict abortions. Public polling indicates that Pennsylvania voters strongly oppose abortion bans: a May 2022 poll by Franklin & Marshall College found that 85% of registered voters in the state think abortion should be legal in some or all cases.
Despite this public opposition to abortion bans, Republicans in control of the Pennsylvania state legislature are working to pass an amendment to the state constitution to ban abortion.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania states that the amendment would “deny the right to abortion care in Pennsylvania—even in cases of rape, incest, or life-threatening conditions.”
Republican state leadership has signaled that even if their constitutional amendment fails this year, they will still work to pass it next year if they retain control of the state legislature. Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R) told the Lancaster Patriot that, “If we get the opportunity to pass such legislation [outlawing all abortions], I do think it would pass and I would personally support it,” he said. “What we need is a different governor.”
Speaker Cutler hopes that “different” governor will be State Senator Doug Mastriano (R), the Republican nominee for Governor who has previously said he would ban all abortions – including in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is at risk.
Despite being at odds with a majority of Pennsylvania voters, many Republican legislators seem to agree with Mastriano’s extremist position. In 2019, Sen. Mastriano introduced a bill to effectively ban all abortions, without exceptions for rape or incest, and 40 percent of Republican legislators co-sponsored it. According to the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, Reps. Cindy Kirk (HD-30) and Ted Tomson (HD-33), both Republicans who are facing competitive reelection bids, also oppose exceptions for rape or incest.
In contrast, Democratic state leaders have vowed to protect access to reproductive health care in the state, and many Democratic candidates have made it a key part of their platform. Mandy Steele (HD-33) is running against Ted Tomson, for example, and has said that women “are ALL entitled to basic human rights”, including being able to “make decisions about our bodies.” Paul Takac (HD-82) echoed that position, saying he believes in “a woman’s right to control her own body and work with her doctor to choose the right healthcare for her — without restriction or interference.”
Arvind Venkat, an emergency room doctor who is running against Kirk, said that he “will be a voice and vote to preserve reproductive health and liberty” if elected. Dr. Venkat has spoken about the experience of treating a woman who nearly died from a self-managed abortion, saying, “I will never forget her suffering and do not want to see that happen in Pennsylvania.”
This November, Pennsylvania voters will be deciding on the future of healthcare in the state. Pennsylvania Republicans are already working to ban access to abortion even in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the parent is at risk. Pennsylvania Democrats have vowed to defend a parent’s right to make healthcare decisions without political interference. Stories like the one from Dr. Venkat show the stakes in this election.