With less than three weeks to go in the race for Pennsylvania’s next governor, Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) emphasized to attendees at City Hall that the upcoming election is about freedom.
“It’s not freedom to tell a woman what she’s allowed to do with her body,” Shapiro said. “Real freedom comes when we trust women to make those decisions over their own bodies and you have the power to ensure that happens.”
Shapiro spoke at his campaign’s “Rally to Defend Choice” at City Hall on Saturday afternoon and urged attendees to cast a ballot for him on Nov. 8 to protect abortion rights. The rally was organized by local undergraduate medical and law students who partnered with Shapiro’s campaign to highlight how providers and patients would be affected by a statewide abortion ban.
Shapiro is running against State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33), who wants to restrict the procedure in Pennsylvania, while Shapiro has campaigned on preserving existing access.
Abortion has been a key issue in gubernatorial and congressional races nationwide after the Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that the United States Constitution doesn’t confer the right to an abortion.
Roughly 90 percent of Temple University students support abortion in all circumstances, according to a September poll from The Temple News.
Theresa Christensen, a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania, began the event by acknowledging the challenges women would face in accessing reproductive care if the procedure was restricted.
“I, personally, as a young woman with much of my career still ahead of me, could not imagine living in a state where I would not have access to abortion care should I need it,” Christensen said.
Christensen was discouraged to learn that many medical professionals who inspired her had already begun seeking medical licenses in neighboring states in the event they are unable to legally perform abortions in Pennsylvania.
Abortion is completely banned in 13 states including Texas, Louisiana and Missouri, The New York Times reported.
Chioma Ndubisi, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, spoke about how she worked in a hospital in a low-income community where terminating pregnancies wasn’t allowed, warning attendees that this could be the new reality in Pennsylvania if Mastriano wins in November.
“When my patients presented an early pregnancy, critically bleeding due to an abnormality, if a heartbeat was detected in the pregnancy, I wasn’t allowed to discuss an abortion procedure that could probably save their lives,” she said.
Ndubisi urged attendees to use the ballot box as a way to protect their rights due to the judicial system’s failure to do so, she said.
Several other medical students spoke to voice their support for Shapiro while raising the importance of voter turnout.
Shapiro took the mic and criticized Mastriano’s stance on abortion, specifically his willingness to ban the procedure without exemptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother.
“This is not a theoretical conversation anymore, because we know [the Pennsylvania legislature] is poised to put a bill on the desk of the governor to do exactly what Doug Mastriano wants,” Shapiro said. “I will veto that bill and trust the women of Pennsylvania to make decisions over their own bodies.”
He offered his support for medical professionals amid concerns they could face penalties for performing abortions if Mastriano wins. While commenting on a proposed abortion ban in 2019, Mastriano said nurses who perform the procedure should be charged with murder.
Democratic state legislators introduced legislation on Oct. 4 to protect Pennsylvania nurses who performed abortions on patients from other states.
Seth Fisher, 41, was happy to see Shapiro at City Hall and attended the event because he wanted to show support for abortion rights, especially because most Americans have expressed support for the procedure in recent polling.
“The fact that the government overturned [Roe v. Wade] it is undemocratic and the fact that it hasn’t been restored is undemocratic, so we should fight for democracy,” Fisher said.
Shapiro closed his speech by urging attendees to maintain their energy for preserving reproductive rights in the weeks ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
“If you can realize the power of your voice over these next 17 days, then I will spend the next four years as your governor defending your fundamental freedoms, including the right to choose here in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said.