Nearly 300 state and local officials signed a letter this week condemning Republican Senate nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz over his recent comments on abortion, writing that local politicians “have no business getting in between a woman and her doctor.”The letter, which was signed by a collection of Democratic state senators, state representatives and local officials, comes after Oz suggested in a U.S. Senate debate last week that decisions regarding abortion should not be left up to the federal government, but should instead be handled by women, doctors and “local political leaders.”
“Let’s be clear: local elected leaders like us have no business getting in between a woman and her doctor – especially when it comes to some of the most personal and private health care decisions someone can make,” the letter reads. “The idea that ‘local political leaders’ should have an equal say in a woman’s decision about how, when, and if to start a family is deeply disturbing and out of touch.”
Fetterman – whose stroke recovery and verbal struggles took center stage at last week’s only U.S. Senate debate – has seized on Oz’s abortion comments, looking to levy pressure against the doctor and former television show host in the days following the debate. Hours after the debate concluded, the Fetterman campaign launched new ads highlighting Oz’s comments, linking him to state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the state’s GOP nominee for governor who opposes exceptions for abortions.
Some of the letter’s signees spoke with reporters on Tuesday about abortion access, as did physicians with concerns about Oz’s stance on the issue.
“There is no room for Mehmet Oz’s radical idea that local politicians like Doug Mastriano should be involved in the medical decision-making that goes on in that exam room,” said Dr. Val Arkoosh, the chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners who is also an obstetric anesthesiologist. Arkoosh called Oz the “wrong prescription for Pennsylvania” and said that Oz “knows better than to call for local politicians to be involved in decisions around abortion.” “There is no excuse for any doctor to make a statement like this,” she said.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 1973 decision that outlined a federal right to abortion access, a move that added fuel to an already contentious set of midterm races for governor and U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.
Oz’s position on abortion access was under the spotlight heading into the debate, and while Fetterman later sought to capitalize off Oz’s comments, Oz did attempt to throw cold water on the idea of him voting for a federal abortion ban. When asked whether he would support legislation from U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham that would ban abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, Oz said he believes abortion restrictions are better left to the states. “There should not be involvement from the federal government in how states decide their abortion decisions. As a physician, I’ve been in the room when there are some difficult conversations happening. I don’t want the federal government involved with that at all,” he said. “I want women, doctors, local political leaders leading the democracy that’s always allowed our nation to thrive to put the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves.”
Oz’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the open letter.