Mehmet Oz says abortion should be decided between ‘women, doctors, local political leaders’

In Tuesday’s debate, Dr. Mehmet Oz said he does not support a federal ban on abortion. But he said local politicians should be able to prohibit it.

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In an echo of the language used by supporters of abortion rights, Dr. Mehmet Oz on Tuesday said he too believes the question of whether to terminate a pregnancy is best left to a woman and her doctor — but then he continued, adding a third party: state politicians.

In the first and only debate between Oz and his Democratic rival Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the celebrity doctor turned Republican candidate for Senate was asked to answer a question he’s previously evaded: Would he support a bill from South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy?

Oz responded by saying that the federal government should not intervene “in how states decide their abortion decisions.”

Instead, Oz continued, he would leave the issue up to “women, doctors, local political leaders, letting the democracy that’s always allowed our nation to thrive to put the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves.”

Oz’s position on abortion has evolved over the years. In 2019, he defended Roe v. Wade, saying that as a physician he had personally witnessed women who suffered “really traumatic events” from undergoing illegal, “coat-hanger” abortions.” Running in the GOP primary, however, Oz pivoted to calling abortion “murder.” And on Tuesday, he argued his opponent would “allow abortion at 38 weeks, on the delivery table” (such abortions are usually a result of fetal abnormalities being detected or the need to protect the life of the mother; 99% of abortions occur before 21 weeks).

In Pennsylvania, Republican lawmakers are seeking to restrict abortion, with state Sen. Doug Mastriano — the candidate for governor who Oz appeared with last month at a rally with former President Donald Trump — expressing support for a six-week ban without exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother. Oz has said he supports including those exceptions, but the position he enunciated on Tuesday would mean allowing GOP-led states to decide their own laws. Current Pennsylvania law allows abortion until around 24 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions. 

Fetterman on Tuesday night said he would support enshrining abortion rights into federal law — and, in the meantime, providing federally assisted transportation so that people in states where abortion is banned can access it where it’s still legal.

“I want to look into the face of every woman in Pennsylvania. You know, if you believe that the choice of your reproductive freedom belongs with Dr. Oz, then you have a choice,” Fetterman said. “But if you believe that the choice for abortion belongs between you and your doctor, that’s what I’d fight for.”

Abortion has become a major concern in the midterm elections, particularly among Democratic voters, after the Supreme Court in June struck down Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that established the constitutional right to the procedure nearly 50 years ago.

Democratic candidates, including Fetterman, have heavily campaigned on abortion rights in an effort to expand the party’s House and Senate majorities and codify Roe v. Wade into law. 

Republicans running for Congress, meanwhile, have largely tried to shift attention away from the topic, focusing on other top issues, such as the economy and inflation. 

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