Abortion Rights Jumps to Top of Agenda in Pennsylvania Governor’s Race, Pitting Pro-Choice Incumbent Versus Pro-Life Challenger

Incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is strongly pro-choice. Challenger Scott Wagner, a Republican, is staunchly pro-life.

Gov. Tom Wolf, who is seeking a second term in office in the November election, stopped Wednesday in Philadelphia to lend support to women's access to reproductive health rights and reiterated his long-standing pro-choice stance.

The issue of abortion became front-and-center in the Pennsylvania governor's race this month when President Donald Trump announced Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in the wake of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy's pending retirement.

Kavanaugh is a longtime federal judge whose appointment, some legal observers believe, could lead to a reversal of Roe v. Wade, the 1974 Supreme Court decision that bars states from banning abortions.

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"Regardless of what happens in Washington, we here in Pennsylvania still have the ability to control womens rights and I will continue to stand tall for women's rights," Wolf said during an appearance at Jefferson University Hospital in Center City.

Wolf, a Democrat, is regarded by pro-choice advocates as the guardian of abortion rights in a state where Republicans control the Legislature. His opponent, Republican and former state Sen. Scott Wagner, is pro-life.

"While Tom Wolf is being funded by a group that prioritizes abortions, and has vetoed pro-life bills on their behalf, Scott has a strong record standing up for the unborn in the Senate and will sign pro-life legislation as governor," a spokesman for Wagner said Wednesday.

Last week the candidate himself declined to commit to a stance. 

"You know, that’s a federal issue," Wagner told WHYY on July 20. "I'm not running for president right now. I’m more focused on the problems in Pennsylvania."

When pressed on the fact that a Supreme Court ruling that overturns Roe v. Wade might put the issue over abortions back in the hands of states, Wagner again demurred.

"It may, and whatever happens, happens," he said. "Right now, in this interview, I’m not committing to anything."

Wolf last year vetoed a bill that would have banned abortions beyond 20 weeks of a pregnancy. Another bill has been introduced this year that would ban abortions beyond six weeks.

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