Abortion rights are on the ballot November 7 in PA. Here’s what you need to know.

Can’t Trust Carluccio Rally

Alhambra Frarey, an obstetrician gynecologist, speaking about reproductive freedoms at a "Can't Trust Carluccio" rally in Philadelphia on Oct. 20, 2023. (Photo: Isabel Soisson)

By Sean Kitchen

October 13, 2023

The upcoming Pennsylvania Supreme Court election will likely play a pivotal role in determining the future of reproductive rights for years.  

And for Pennsylvania voters who care about reproductive health freedoms, Montgomery County Judge Carolyn Carluccio can’t be trusted on the Supreme Court, abortion rights advocates argued this week.

Even though Democrats hold a 4 to 2 majority on the high court, reproductive rights advocates are sounding the alarm about the Calruccio’s anti-abortion stances and see this as a critical election to preserve reproductive rights going forward. 

“A little over a year ago, Pennsylvanians witnessed a fundamental right of women and families eroded,” J.J. Abbott, the Executive Director of Commonwealth Communications, on a press call with reporters on Thursday. 

“The United States Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade and took away the freedoms of millions across the country. In response, many Republicans have tried to downplay the Dobbs decision by asserting that the decision merely ‘sent it back to the states,’ but that’s exactly why the supreme court race means so much more than ever.”

State supreme courts now play a defining role in reproductive health care rights, and advocates have sounded the alarm about Carluccio’s anti-abortion stances. Her opponent, Daniel McCaffery, has said he will defend the right to abortion and access to health care essentials. McCaffery is currently a justice on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and  has been endorsed by Reproductive Freedom for All, Planned Parenthood, Pennsylvania National Organization for women.

Democrats, who haven’t won a Supreme Court race since they flipped the court in 2015 by winning three open seats, have their work cut out for them in order to hold onto the majority in the years ahead. 

In order to preserve their majority and serve as a backstop protecting reproductive freedoms, Democrats have to win this upcoming election, defend three justices who are up for retention votes in 2025 and win an open election in 2027 after Justice Christine Donahue is forced to resign once she reaches the mandatory retirement age. 

The Keystone reported in May that Carluccio was caught removing an anti-abortion resume from her campaign website. It stated that she would be a “defender of all life under the law,” clearly implying she planned to restrict or ban abortion freedoms. She also sought the endorsements of organizations of anti-abortion groups that want to ban abortions, even in the instances of rape and incest. 

Carluccio’s omission caught the attention of Planned Parenthood Votes, the national political arm of the reproductive rights organization. The organization launched a seven-figure advertising campaign in September that aired Carluccio’s anti-abortion views in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh markets.  

Breana Ross, the campaign director for Planned Parenthood Voters, told reporters that Investing in state supreme court races around the country is something new for Planned Parenthood.

“The one thing I will say about this race is that the facts are very clear. Carolyn Carluccio cannot be trusted to protect the rights and freedoms of Pennsylvanians,” Ross said.

“We know that she tried to hide her anti-abortion stances by scrubbing her website after she won the primary. We know that she’s endorsed by the Pro-Life Federation that wants to enact a total abortion ban and does not believe in expectations. And we also know that her family foundation has given at least $10,000 to anti-abortion fake clinics. She’s not the leader that we need in Pennsylvania.”

Dr. Anne Steiner, who has been a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) for over four decades, explained how losing reproductive freedoms and the access to abortion not only affects women, but also affects whole families.

Steiner cited the Turnaway Study which followed 1,000 women over five years who sought abortion but were turned away from clinics because they were too far along in their pregnancy and compared them to women who had access to abortion. 

“Not only the women, but their children and families have worse mental health and they were worse off economically and socially in their lives,” Steiner said. “We know a loss of access to abortion has detrimental effects on the entire family.”  

“Abortion and the decision to have an abortion not only affects women, but it affects the entire family,” Steiner said.  



  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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