Overview:

This op-ed is the third part in a five-part series, by News is Out member publications, looking at Roe v. Wade.

This op-ed is the third part in a five-part series, by News is Out member publications, looking at Roe v. Wade and its impacts on the LGBTQ+ community. 

By Mark Segal, Philadelphia Gay News

A New York Times headline on May 9 stated it clearly: “Midterms’ Biggest Abortion Battleground: Pennsylvania.” There are around 23 U.S. states that will pull the trigger and limit abortion as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, which is expected in June or July. Of the remaining states, some of them, particularly Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, fall into the purple state category where one of the three governing bodies is controlled by Democrats and those Democrats hold the line on abortion rights.

Pennsylvania is one of those purple states where it has become the major political staging ground in this race to outlaw abortion state by state. At the same time, the issue is galvanizing all sides of the national political spectrum, and both Democrats and Republicans are raising the issue in the U.S. Senate elections.

A Republican-majority Senate, as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has stated, would very likely vote on a law to outlaw abortion on a national basis rather than state by state, which is what the leaked Supreme Court ruling will do.  

If Pennsylvania elects a Republican governor, the state Legislature will write and pass into law the test case that will outlaw abortion outright in the state. That law will most likely be challenged and sent to a Republican-controlled U.S. Supreme Court.

But why is Pennsylvania the primary battleground on abortion? Currently, both chambers of the state Legislature are controlled by Republicans, and that will remain true after this year’s election. The only gatekeeper on the anti-choice legislation that the House and Senate have passed numerous times in the last eight years is a veto by our Democratic governor. That might change since this year is an election year and our governor is term limited. 

All of the Republicans running in the gubernatorial primary have already stated that, if they win in November, they will end women’s right to choose in Pennsylvania. Their next target would be to pass legislation that would be tailor-made for the U.S. Supreme Court to outlaw marriage equality and a host of restrictive voting rights laws.

Pennsylvania is being groomed by the Republicans to be the testing ground for passing state laws and taking them to the U.S. Supreme Court to nationalize them.

At the same time, we also have an open seat in the U.S. Senate. It is the most closely watched Senate race in the nation and will also be among the most expensive. Every Republican running for their party’s nomination is outdoing the other on how Trumpishly Republican they can be, which translates to anti-choice and anti-trans. One candidate even uses a stereotyped gay male actor to endorse his opponent and boasts about it in his TV spots. You might have heard of one of the Republican Senate candidates, the television celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz, who is engaged in a recount against opponent  David McCormick. 

What has been labeled the “Culture Wars,” is becoming “the War on Equality.” Statewide anti-trans laws are being signed into law at alarming rates, including laws outlawing trans girls in sports, as well as laws making it difficult for trans people to change their birth certificates and driver’s licenses. Funding for women’s and LGBTQ+ health would be cut. Pennsylvania is one governor’s seat away from this becoming a reality. 

So where are we after the primary? The U.S. Senate race might decide if Democrats keep control of the Senate next January. If Republicans win, they will control all three branches of state government and pass, and may sign into law anti-women’s health legislation and anti trans legislation as well as test the waters to end marriage equality nationally before the Supreme Court. 

A recognized symbol of freedom, the Liberty Bell, is in Philadelphia, PA. (Source: Brett Sayes/Pexels)

The Democrats have chosen progressives: for senator, John Fetterman, an unlikely choice as a down to earth, more man-of-the-people Bernie Sanders who relates to the public.  He’ll go up against one of two Republicans still counting the votes in their primary, TV’s Oz and a hedge fund director, McCormick. About 1,000 votes separate them. On the gubernatorial side, the nominee Doug Mastriano has repeated that if elected abortion would be outlawed with no exceptions, and for good measure he would ban trans girls in all sports.  It will be a long six months in Pennsylvania until November.  

The Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary has become the most expensive primary in the nation, and the mud is slinging. But the outcome could swing the control of the U.S. Senate and give McConnell the opportunity to not only outlaw abortion, but stop any appointees by President Joe Biden to the court or cabinet from being confirmed. And of course, any equality bill would languish in filibuster hell. Welcome to Pennsylvania, home of the 1776 revolution for freedom and equality, and now home to a new war to restrict freedom and equality. In a union with 50 states, things have never been more divided.

Pennsylvania is not only a purple state, it is also the battlefield on all forms of equality, and even our democracy.

Mark Segal is the founder and publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, the largest and oldest publication targeting the LGBTQ+ community, started in 1976.