On October 26 2022, a post to Reddit’s r/politics suggested that Republican candidate for Senate and television personality Mehmet Oz stated that a decision to have an abortion should be between “a woman, her doctor, and local political leaders” during a debate with Democratic opponent John Fetterman:
A different post to Reddit’s r/politics, this one from September 16 2022, suggested that Fetterman had spent some time pressing Oz about his position on abortion, and insisting that Oz disclose his position regarding a “federal abortion ban”:
On the night of October 25 2022, American Bridge researcher Pat Dennis tweeted about Oz’s purported abortion remarks during the debate with Fetterman. Dennis attached a ten-second clip of Oz speaking, with Fetterman standing at a nearby podium:
Only Oz spoke in the brief clip above, and the preceding content was not included. Oz’s remarks in its entirety were as follows:
I want women, doctors, local political leaders, letting the democracy that’s always allowed our nation to thrive to put the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves …
Oz did not use the word “abortion” in the answer. However, in addition to the call sign for Pennsylvania’s WHTM-TV (ABC 27), a chyron across the screen supported the claim that Oz spoke of abortion as a right — it read:
Should abortion be banned except in cases of rape, incest, or to protect a mother’s life?
Locating additional, specific context about the Oz clip was not easy based on news reports about the debate. An Associated Press “recap” quoted both candidates’ debate answers about issues (including abortion), but did not reference the viral clip:
The two candidates had very different positions on abortion.
- “I am not going to support federal, federal, rules that block the abilities of states to do what they wish to do. The abortion decision should be left up to states,” Oz said.
- “I support on Roe v. Wade. That was the law of the land for 50 years. He celebrated when it fell down and I would fight to re-establish on Roe v. Wade. That’s what I run on. That’s what I believe,” Fetterman said.
British news organization The Guardian published “Abortion rights take centre stage as Oz and Fetterman clash in Pennsylvania Senate debate.” However, Oz’s remarks were paraphrased in that coverage:
[Dr. Oz and Fetterman] were asked about abortion early in the debate. Nationally, Democrats have drawn attention to Republicans’ role in the landmark Roe v Wade decision being overturned in June this year . Republicans, particularly in politically moderate states like Pennsylvania, have sought to avoid the issue.
Oz was asked: “Should abortion be banned in America”, but declined to answer directly, suggesting instead that “there should not be involvement from the federal government”, and that states should be able to decide their own abortion law.
“I want women, doctors, local political leaders, letting the democracy that’s always allowed our nation to thrive, to put the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves,” Oz said, in remarks that were immediately derided online.
Fetterman said he would “fight to re-establish” Roe v Wade, which he said “should be the law”.
“If you believe that the choice of your reproductive freedom belongs with Dr Oz, then you have a choice. But if you believe that the choice for abortion belongs with you and your doctor, that’s what I fight for,” the Democrat said.
A New York Times liveblog, “Catch Up on the High-Stakes Debate Between Fetterman and Oz,” included some context about the question in its broader coverage of the debate:
Swing-state Republicans are still struggling with abortion questions.
Three times [during the October 25 2022 debate], Dr. Oz was asked whether he would support a federal ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, as Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has proposed.
And three times, Dr. Oz declined to give a straight answer, offering a vivid illustration of how difficult some Republican candidates are finding it to navigate the abortion debate after Roe v. Wade was overturned — especially candidates like Dr. Oz, who are seeking to appeal to suburban moderates who support abortion rights without alienating the conservative base.
Dr. Oz, who has previously said that terminating a pregnancy any time is “still murder,” said he saw abortion as a state issue and even inserted an addition to Democrats’ often-repeated line about abortion being a decision made by a woman and her doctor.
“I want women, doctors, local political leaders — letting the democracy that’s always allowed our nation to thrive — to put the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves,” Dr. Oz said.
Mr. Fetterman jumped on the topic.
“If you believe that the choice of your reproductive freedom belongs with Dr. Oz, then you have a choice,” he said, promising to vote to codify abortion protections into law, given the opportunity. “If you believe that the choice for abortion belongs between you and your doctor, that’s what I fight for.”
On October 25 2022, a brief segment of Dr. Oz answering a question about a federal abortion ban circulated; in it, Oz said: “I want women, doctors, local political leaders … so states can decide for themselves.” Oz appeared to evade saying “abortion,” but a chyron indicated the discussion was over whether abortion should be banned except in cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the life of the mother. Oz did not say “I believe …” before the statement, but he did say “women, doctors, and political leaders” in his answer. Contextually, Oz’s remarks appeared to be a reference to the axiom that abortion should be “between a patient and their doctor, not a politician,” but with its meaning modified to support “states’ rights.”