Abortion takes center stage in high profile Senate GOP clash in Pennsylvania

Mehmet Oz, one of the front-runners in the crowded and divisive GOP Senate primary for an open seat in the crucial battleground state of Pennsylvania, says he's furious over the unprecedented leak of a Supreme Court initial draft opinion that indicates the high court’s conservative majority is likely to overturn the landmark nearly half century old Roe v. Wade abortion ruling.

Oz asserted in an interview with Fox News’ Alexandria Hoff on Thursday that "taking information that has been entrusted to you by a Supreme Court justice and for the first time ever leaking it. That is a horrific declaration of war on the Supreme Court."

And he urged that it "must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Oz, the cardiac surgeon, author, and well-known celebrity physician who until the launch of his Senate campaign late last year was host of TV’s popular "Dr. Oz Show," was interviewed the morning after what may be the final debate by the five major Republican primary contenders before Pennsylvania's May 17 primary. Both major parties view the contest to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey as one of a handful of races that could ultimately decide if Republicans win back the Senate majority in November’s midterms.

Wednesday evening’s showdown between the leading candidates was the first since the news regarding Roe v. Wade rocked the political world, and the issue of abortion was in the spotlight.

Oz shared the stage at the debate along with his chief rival David McCormick, a former hedge fund executive, West Point graduate, Gulf War combat veteran and Treasury Department official in former President George W. Bush's administration, as well as veteran and conservative political commentator Kathy Barnette; Jeff Bartos, a real estate developer, philanthropist and 2018 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor; and Carla Sands, a real estate executive and major Republican donor who served as ambassador to Denmark during the Trump administration.


The candidates in unison said they’d support measures to restrict abortion access and reaffirmed their anti-abortion credentials.

But McCormick and Barnette also went on the attack against Oz over the issue, pointing to comments he made three years ago on the popular radio program "The Breakfast Club" where Oz said he had concerns over an Alabama measure that would have led to a near total ban on abortion. 

McCormick accused Oz of flip-flopping on the issue. "You’ve got a track record that’s completely opposite of the idea," he said to Oz. "It’s another example of you being completely phony."

And Honor Pennsylvania, an outside super PAC supporting McCormick, blasted Oz with a new ad that includes clips from "The Breakfast Club" interview.

Barnette, at the debate, revealed that she was conceived in rape as she took aim at Oz. "I am the byproduct of a rape," she declared. "My mother was 11 years old when I was conceived. My father was 21. I was not just a lump of cells. As you can see, I'm still not just a lump of cells. My life has value."

And pointing to Oz’s comments in 2019, Barnette added "I am wondering if the doctor has now since changed his position on that."

Oz responded by touting the endorsement of his mother-in-law, whom he noted "is an ordained minister. She wrote a lot of the pro-life literature in Montgomery County where we live, and she certainly understands that I'm pro-life."

Oz has said since declaring his candidacy that he supports abortions only in cases of rape, incest, or if the mother’s health is at risk. And he reiterated in the debate that "life starts at conception," which he repeated in his latest Fox News interview.

The debate was held two days before former President Donald Trump heads to Pennsylvania to hold a rally with Oz, whom he endorsed in April. Trump, who more than 15 months removed from the White House, remains the most popular and influential politician in the GOP as he makes dozens of endorsements in the midterm elections in an effort to play a kingmaker’s role in Republican Party primaries.

Both McCormick and Oz, who’ve traded fire for four months, have close connections to the former president, with former top Trump White House and presidential campaign officials endorsing or serving as advisers to both candidates. 

A Franklin and Marshall College poll released Thursday indicated a close contest in the Pennsylvania GOP primary, with Oz at 18%, McCormick at 16%, Barnette at 12%, with nearly four in ten likely Pennsylvania GOP primary voters undecided.