Since winning the GOP primary, Mastriano has remained silent on abortion. Doctors urge him to break it
Reproductive health decisions – how, when and why a person has an abortion – could depend on the results of the general elections in November in Pennsylvania, prompting advocates to demand clarification from the Republican gubernatorial candidate.
As Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, also a former Planned Parenthood volunteer, prepares to leave office in January 2023, reproductive health advocates and medical providers have stepped up efforts to promote access to abortion following the United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
In a virtual event hosted by the Committee to Protect Healthcare, a national advocacy organization, on Monday, three Pennsylvania doctors urged Senator Doug Mastriano for transparency in setting policies related to reproductive health he would support if elected governor.
Dr Meaghan Reid, an emergency physician in Chester County and co-state head of the Committee for the Protection of Health Care, said Mastriano treats abortion “like political football instead of an essential part of health care. health”.
“Instead of using abortion as a throwaway line, doctors and our patients need him to be clear about his position on abortion and not shy about saying he’s asked many occasions that abortion be prohibited without exception,” Reid said.
Mastriano, a vocal opponent of access to abortion, once called abortion the No. 1 problem, introducing a proposal ban abortions after six weeks, which is before most people know they are pregnant. He also promised to act “with alacrity and speed” to ban, without exception, abortion once fetal heart activity is detected.
During April debate, Mastriano called legal abortion a “national disaster” and promised to push back his abortion ban for six weeks if elected governor. He also expressed support for punishing doctors who perform the procedure.
“It will be a crime as governor,” he said during the televised forum.
But since winning the Republican gubernatorial nomination in May, Mastriano — who did not respond to repeated requests for comment — has remained largely silent about his views on abortion.
That silence could mislead voters, Max Cooper, an emergency physician in southeastern Pennsylvania and co-state head of the Committee to Protect Health Care, told reporters Monday.
“And the last thing a candidate for Pennsylvania’s highest office should be doing is withholding information that voters need to make informed decisions,” he said.
After the Supreme Court’s June ruling, Mastriano said, “Roe v. Wade is rightly relegated to the ash heap of history. He added that while his overthrow is a “triumph for innocent life”, it should not distract from key issues.
“As they battle all-time high inflation, people worry about gas and grocery prices, and out of control crime and good paying jobs – that’s exactly why I’m going prioritize the latter as governor,” he said in a written statement.
Muhlenberg College political science professor Christopher Borick said Mastriano’s decision not to emphasize abortion in his campaign downplays the risk that his extreme stance could alienate some Republican voters.
“His position, at least among Republicans, may not cost him a ton of votes. Also, he can’t afford to lose a lot,” Borick said. “It’s a question that will challenge him until Election Day.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro, on the other hand, has been clear that reproductive rights in Pennsylvania will not change with him as governor.
“His position is clear and he’s happy to have that head and center running,” Borick said. “It’s more complex, certainly, for Mastriano.”
The Abortion Control Act legalizes the procedure up to 24 weeks of pregnancy in Pennsylvania – unless researched based on the sex of the fetus. Later exceptions can be made for extraordinary circumstances, including when the health of the person giving birth is at risk.
Legislative proposals to restrict access to reproductive health care have been circulating in Harrisburg for years. With a Republican-controlled General Assembly, a Democrat as governor has been the only barrier between tighter restrictions on abortion or a ban.
Pennsylvania has collected data on induced abortions since 1975, a requirement under state law. According 2020 data, the latest available, of the 32,123 abortions performed that year, the majority – 21,934 – occurred eight weeks or less into a pregnancy. None occurred at 24 weeks or more.
Debra Mollen, professor of psychology at Texas Women’s Universitytold the Capital-Star earlier this month that elected and appointed government officials have used misinformation about reproductive health and the fight for access to abortion to promote restrictions on the procedure.
She cited research conducted at the University of California, San Francisco – The Turnaway Study – which included 1,000 women from clinics in 21 states. For more than 10 years, researchers have tracked the experiences of those who have had abortions or been denied abortions due to clinic policies on gestational limits.
Outcomes were much worse for those who were forced to have children, according to the study – finding that people who were denied abortions are more likely to experience complications as soon as pregnancy ends, including eclampsia, a high blood pressure disorder linked to pregnancy and death. Research has also found they are more likely to stay with an abusive partner, suffer from anxiety, lose self-esteem and have poor physical health. They are also more likely to raise the child alone.
Addressing abortions later in pregnancy, Mollen said the procedures are “relatively rare.”
“The more restrictions we have, the more common it becomes. People have less access, so they are pushed further into their pregnancy when they can – if they can even access abortion,” she said. “And of course now there will be thousands and thousands and hundreds of thousands of people who are able to get pregnant who won’t have any access.”