Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn
Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that there is no Constitutional right to an abortion. However, public polling indicates that Pennsylvania voters strongly oppose abortion bans: a May 2022 poll by Franklin & Marshall College found that 85 percent of registered voters in the state think abortion should be legal in some or all cases. Despite this public opposition to abortion bans, the Republican-controlled state legislature is working to pass an amendment to the state constitution to ban abortion.
The Pennsylvania ACLU says 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 work to pass it next year if they retain control of the state legislature. Republican Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler 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 could certainly find that governor in State Senator Doug Mastriano, who has previously said he would ban all abortions, including in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is at risk and who is currently running for Governor.
Many Republican legislators seem to agree with Mastriano’s extremist position, putting them at odds with a majority of Pennsylvania voters. According to the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, Representatives Cindy Kirk (HD-30) and Ted Tomson (HD-33), who are both facing competitive reelection bids, also oppose exceptions for rape or incest. In 2019, Doug Mastriano introduced a bill to effectively ban all abortions, without exceptions for rape or incest, and 40 percent of Republican legislators co-sponsored it.
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.”
Emergency Room Doctor Arvind Venkat who is running against Kirk, said that he “will be a voice and vote to preserve reproductive health and liberty” if elected. 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.