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Chester County Press

Editorial: Doug Mastriano's big distraction

07/05/2022 03:04PM ● By Richard Gaw

On June 24, the thick, tarnished and unused shackles of American slavery were dusted off from 1865 and ruthlessly placed on the wrists of the 169 million females in the United States – young girls included -- and with all of the delicacy of a butcher on caffeine jag, their consciences were deliberately removed – a two-for-one bargain in the dismantling of our nation’s progress.

With swift strokes of five pens, U.S. Supreme Court judges Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Clarence Thomas – issued a decree that overturned the 50-year-old freedoms of Roe v. Wade and effectively told these women that their reproductive decisions no longer belong to them – that their basic human right to make the largest decision of their lives unencumbered by political interference no longer qualifies as constitutional.

This decision was the construct of an archaic and invented agenda of a far-right majority of judges for whom the future of America resembles a Handmaid’s Tale of subservience, repression and hatred of all ideas deemed progressive.

“With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent,” Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote in their dissenting opinion. “Enforcement of all these draconian restrictions will also be left largely to the States’ devices. A State can of course impose criminal penalties on abortion providers, including lengthy prison sentences.”

With the gavel of the U.S. Supreme Court now reverberating, the opinion of Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor accurately summarizes where the issue of abortion rights now resides. Right now, 13 states in the country are on the brink of enacting immediate abortion bans and in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, at least 13 more could quickly add to the domino-like tumbledown.

For the 165,000 females in Chester County and the 6.5 million females throughout the commonwealth who may someday require the need for abortion services, Pennsylvania is not one of those states, for now.

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf released a statement that emphatically stressed that abortion services are available and unharmed in Pennsylvania. These freedoms, however, are tenuous; in a state where its Republican-controlled legislature has passed restrictive reproductive measures in recent years, separating a woman’s right to choose and shut-down anti-abortion laws in Pennsylvania may be determined solely on who will occupy Wolf’s seat in 2023.

Throughout his time in Harrisburg as the state’s top law enforcement officer, Attorney General Josh Shapiro has challenged several anti-abortion laws in other states and is pledging as a gubernatorial candidate that if elected, he will support and protect abortion rights.

His challenger, the Republican Doug Mastriano, has spent his career in the state’s legislature ferociously defending his pro-life views, saying in May that he opposes the right to terminate a pregnancy even if it meant the death of the mother. He even went as far as to say in an interview that Democrats “and their friends in traditional media” are intentionally using the Roe v. Wade decision as a distraction to the other issues in the state.

“…Most people in this country are concerned about inflation, gas prices, food not on the shelves, baby formula, and just on and on,” Mastriano said. “So this is all a distraction.”

Apparently, reproductive choices for Pennsylvania women were not a distraction for Mastriano in 2019, when he sponsored a bill he called “The Heartbeat Bill” that would ban an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected – about six to eight weeks into a pregnancy. A woman’s right to choose has not been a distraction for Mastriano when he has reiterated his support for eliminating state funding for Planned Parenthood.

Prior to now, reproductive choices for women have not been a distraction for Mastriano, who has opposed exceptions for rape, incest, or the mother’s life being in danger during pregnancy, or in his support for criminal penalties for medical professionals who perform abortions.

While it is perfectly acceptable for Shapiro and Mastriano to remain committed to their respective opinions, the upcoming election for the Governor of Pennsylvania will have very little do with either of them, nor will it have much, if any, impact on inflation and baby formula and the price of a gallon of gas.

This we do know: that the election of the future Governor of Pennsylvania will have a life-changing effect on a Pennsylvania woman’s right to pursue her own, private decisions regarding her body. Enacting anti-abortion laws will affect marginalized women already facing economic instability. It will affect those women who not have the resources to travel to other states for services, and possibly restrict their ability to achieve a higher education or pay for child care.

Out of the fire pit of an incendiary ideology, the U.S. Supreme Court has chosen to discard these women into the hands of the states, but to treat these harsh realities as a mere distraction – as Mastriano suggests – is not only a careless and devastating indictment of all women in Pennsylvania, but all women, everywhere.