TV doctor-turned-Republican senatorial candidate Mehmet Oz had a hard time spotting abortion.
He claims to be “100% pro-life”, but has some exceptions. And just in 2019, Oz defended himself Roe v. Wade.
But now, The Daily Beast has obtained audio from a campaign event in May, where Oz took his most extreme position yet, telling voters he believes abortion at any stage of development is “still murder,” even from the moment of arrest.
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“I believe life begins at conception, and I’ve said that many times,” Oz said during the event. a televised town hall it was held a week before the Republican primary.
“If life begins at conception,” added Oz, “why do you care at what age the heart begins to beat? It’s, you know, it’s still murder if you take out a child whether their heart is beating or not.”
He was responding to an audience member who wondered how Oz could equate his current anti-abortion stance with his statements from 2019, namely that “the heart doesn’t beat” six weeks into pregnancy.
The one-time surgeon explained that, at the time of the 2019 interview, he was “concerned” about ensuring anti-abortion laws were enforced.
“My mother-in-law wrote a lot of the original pro-life literature in Montgomery County,” Oz told the conservative audience. “My argument in that radio interview was that as a doctor, a heart starts beating around nine weeks. So I was concerned that if lawmakers chose a timeline that is not medically accurate, it would invalidate the law.”
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Oz actually said something about this in his 2019 Breakfast Club interview. “If you’re going to define life by a beating heart,” he said, “then make it the beating heart, not little electrical exchanges in the cell that no one would hear or he would think of them as a heart.’
The context in that 2019 interview, however, was that Oz was politically pro-choice.
He was “really concerned,” Oz said during that interview, about the harmful effects on women’s health if Roe they were overturned.
He even took a shot at people who believe life begins at conception – as Oz now says.
“To be reasonable,” said Oz then, “if you think you have one life at the time of conception, then why wait six weeks? Right, then an in vitro fertilized egg is still a life.’
It’s unclear what Oz’s position is on abortion laws that could effectively ban IVF as well. According to his most recent financial disclosures, Oz and his wife own between $1.5 million and $6 million in shares of Prelude Fertility, part of the largest in vitro fertility network in the United States — which is currently looking for a buyer.
Abortion rights are on the ballot this year, and Democrats see the issue playing in their favor. They are betting big, like the polls in the wake of the Supreme Court Dobbs Ruling suggests an energized pro-choice electorate could make a difference in key midterm races. This includes Pennsylvania, which The New York Times has called the “biggest abortion battleground” of the midterms, and where support for abortion access is at an all-time high.
None of this is great news for Oz.
Of the former TV star of the day huddle on the issue has been a weak spot throughout his campaign—including the Republican primaries, where he tried to sell the MAGA base to his conservative bonafides. And his comments equating early-stage abortion to “murder,” made weeks before those primaries, could complicate his continued efforts to appeal to the critical swing state voting bloc in the suburbs.
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A former senior official in the Pennsylvania governor’s office told The Daily Beast that while hard-line anti-abortion rhetoric carried Oz into the primary, he is “outside of where most Pennsylvania voters are” and could be a strategic mistake in the general election.
“In today’s environment, this is such a huge blunder because it speaks directly to people’s biggest concerns about voting for an anti-abortion Republican like Dr. Oz,” the former employee said. “A lot of voters are very concerned — even if they’re uncomfortable with abortion themselves — that there will be these hard-line bans that prevent their family and friends from getting the care they need.”
This person added to call a woman having an abortion in the early stages of pregnancy murder “so out of place where most Pennsylvania voters are.”
“Oz voters in particular are a must-win,” this former staffer continued, “like moderates and independents, suburban voters, ideologically middle-of-the-road voters in Pennsylvania.”
Oz’s Democratic challenger, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, is counting on endorsements from the nation’s top abortion rights groups and has tried to leverage issue.
“Dr. Oz is out of touch with the people of Pennsylvania who support abortion rights by 9-10. Dr. Oz wants to allow extremists to ban abortion without exceptions in cases of rape or incest—in the Palestinian Authority and across the country,” Emilia Rowland, spokeswoman for the Fetterman campaign, told the Daily Beast. “If elected, he will be a rubber stamp to criminalize abortion, appoint judges even more radical than today, and send doctors, nurses and patients to prison.”
Fetterman had too he said Oz wants to ban abortion “even in cases of rape or incest” last week, a claim Fetterman did not mention and which appears to be false. While Oz applauded its abolition Roea move that opened the door to the kinds of blanket bans that Fetterman mentions, Oz continued to support what he calls the three “usual” exceptions: rape, incest and mother’s health.
It might not be so surprising that Oz is in a hall of mirrors for this particular issue. At one point in the 2019 Breakfast Club interview, he made a cynical critique of abortion rights politics.
“There is so much we need to do already to take care of each other. To start picking fights over that — I always wonder about that,” he said. “It happens periodically. There are these moral issues that are almost intentionally being flared up.”
Oz’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
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