Top Republican urged murder charges for women who defied abortion ban

<span>Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Asked in 2019 if he was saying women should be charged with murder for violating an abortion ban he proposed, Doug Mastriano, now the Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, said: “Yes, I am.”

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Mastriano was talking to WITF, a radio station, about a bill he sponsored as a state senator.

The bill would have barred most abortions when a fetal heartbeat could be detected, which is usually about six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.

Mastriano was asked: “You can give me a yes or no on this. Would that woman who decided to have an abortion which would be considered an illegal abortion be charged with murder?”

Mastriano said: “OK, let’s go back to the basic question there. Is [a fetus] a human being? Is that a little boy or girl? If it is, it deserves equal protection under the law.”

He was asked: “So you’re saying yes?”

Mastriano said: “Yes, I am. If it’s a human being, if it’s an American citizen there, a little baby, I don’t care what nationality it is, it deserves equal rights before the law.”

NBC News reported the remark on Tuesday. Mastriano did not immediately comment.

On Monday, he told the conservative Real America’s Voice network: “My views are kind of irrelevant because I cannot rule by fiat or edict or executive order on the issue of life.

“It’s up to the people of Pennsylvania. So if Pennsylvanians want exceptions, if they want to limit the number of weeks, it’s going to have to come from your legislative body and then to my desk.”

Mastriano has been dogged by controversy, including over his links to the January 6 insurrection.

According to the polling website, the Republican trails Josh Shapiro, his Democratic opponent for the governor’s mansion, by more than 10 points.

In June, the US supreme court overturned Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling which guaranteed the right to abortion.

Since then, Democrats have enjoyed a number of striking electoral successes fueled by the issue of abortion rights, including in Republican areas such as Kansas.

Amid reports of rising voter registration among women, Democrats are seeking to make abortion rights central to midterm elections in November, when they will seek to retain control of Congress.

Republicans including Mastriano have attempted to downplay the issue and focus on economic messaging instead.

On Tuesday, Shapiro seized on Mastriano’s 2019 remarks.

The Democrat tweeted: “We knew Doug Mastriano would ban abortion in Pennsylvania with no exceptions – even for rape, incest, or life of the mother. We knew he’d throw doctors in jail for performing them.

“Now, we know he’d charge women who receive an abortion with murder.”