Democrats bet big on abortion in Pennsylvania Supreme Court race

August 29, 2023
Matthew Boose

Abortion, abortion, abortion - that's the message Democrats are planning to hammer in this November's high-stakes Supreme Court race in Pennsylvania.

The left is pouring millions of dollars into painting Republican challenger Carolyn Carluccio as an "extremist," a playbook Democrats have deployed repeatedly since Roe fell.

Dems push abortion in PA

The election won't affect control of the court, where liberals have a 4-2 majority, but a Democratic victory will provide some protection against future losses: three of the liberal justices are facing re-election in 2025.

Control over state courts has become an increasingly coveted prize in a time of deep polarization over fundamental political questions like abortion, parental authority and the rules of elections, which were fundamentally rewritten by Democrats during COVID.

Planned Parenthood is spending six-figures on attack ads against Carluccio, whose opponent, incumbent Democrat Dan McCaffrey, is unabashedly pro-abortion.

“Historically, judicial elections were sleepy affairs. You would get somebody who would talk about their experience. You would get somebody who would talk about the fact that they’re going to be fair and impartial. Now the issues that really come up are women’s reproductive rights," he said.

Radical playbook

Republicans are still struggling to find their footing after the shockwave of the Dobbs decision, which sent the abortion issue back to the states for the first time in 50 years.

Democrats exploited a backlash last November to avoid a widely anticipated "red wave," scoring one of their biggest wins in Pennsylvania with the election of Senator John Fetterman.

The left has continued to leverage abortion effectively - winning a referendum on the issue in Ohio and flipping Wisconsin's Supreme Court by electing an unabashedly pro-abortion judge, Janet Protasiewicz.

McCaffrey is following her radical example, endorsing the party line that abortion should be left to "a woman, her conscience and her doctor" - that is, unlimited.

High stakes

The $45 million Wisconsin race was the most expensive state judicial contest in American history. A Democratic strategist estimated that the race in Pennsylvania will cost up to $25 million.

“You’re probably looking at something in the range of $20 million, $25 million,” J.J. Abbott, a Pennsylvania-based Democratic strategist said. “There’s really significant repercussions nationally in terms of access to reproductive care if Pennsylvania were to limit it.”

Republicans say that the left is ginning up manufactured outrage, since abortion is legal up to 24 weeks and Democrats control state government.

“There is not going to be any abortion bill coming out of Harrisburg anytime soon,” Josh Novotney, a GOP consultant in Pennsylvania, said. “This is a diversionary tactic to not talk about the real issues, including schools and jobs.”

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