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Pennsylvania governor race becoming an unofficial referendum on abortion

Following Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary, abortion access in Pennsylvania now hangs in the balance between candidates Josh Shapiro and Doug Mastriano.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Given the likely possibility that the Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade and send the issue of abortion access back to states, governors could soon have much more power over abortion rights.

Following Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary, abortion access in Pennsylvania now hangs in the balance between candidates Josh Shapiro and Doug Mastriano.

The two candidates are polar opposites on the issue. Shapiro has long supported protecting existing abortion rights in Pennsylvania, where abortion is legal up to the 24th week of pregnancy. Mastriano has previously introduced a “heartbeat bill” that would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, and says he supports a no-exceptions abortion ban.

“It all begins with preserving life and I will do everything in my power here to protect babies so that everyone can live their lives,” Mastriano said in a campaign video posted on May 2.

Democrats in particular are quick to seize on abortion rights as a rallying cry to their base.

“Make no mistake, the power to control our own bodies, lives and futures is at stake,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Dr. Val Arkoosh. The commissioner spoke at a Shapiro campaign event in Harrisburg as part of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party’s “Protect Our Rights Tour.”

Democrats may have numbers on their side. A May F&M College poll found 85 percent of Pennsylvanians think abortion should be legal in all or some circumstances, while 14 percent think it should be illegal in all circumstances.

Opinions are nuanced, however, and polls can change based on their wording. A Pew Research poll from 2014 found 51 percent of Pennsylvanians support abortion being legal in all/most cases, while 44 percent support abortion being illegal in all/most cases.

“At the PA Dems we’re already on the ground. We’re door knocking, we’re phone banking,” said Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson, political director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. “We have organizers in all 67 counties making sure people know how catastrophic it could be for our Commonwealth if Mastriano were to win.”

Republican operatives argue a greater focus on abortion will help them in a state with a high Catholic population and a Republican base that has historically been more motivated to turn out on the issue.

The Pennsylvania Republican Party could not be reached for comment.

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