In Pennsylvania, the battle for the right to abortion at the heart of the elections

In Pennsylvania, the battle for abortion rights at the heart of the ;lections

BET À DAY

A nurse in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jen Sloan, 52, has voted Republican all her life. But she will choose the Democrats in the US midterm elections on November 8, to protect the right to abortion, a theme that has been invited into the campaign. 

For this divorced mother of three, “everything changed” at the end of June, when the United States Supreme Court blasted the “Roe v. Wade” of 1972, which guaranteed this federal right, and referred the question to each state.

“It was like a slap in the face. I thought it was something untouchable (…) that it would never happen in my life”, she says. No more question for her to vote for Donald Trump's party, which she had chosen in 2016 and 2020. “It's just not who I am,” she says.

In the state of Pennsylvania (northeast), where a close battle is shaping up for a key senator seat for the majority in the upper house in Washington, the Democrats have identified the issue and their campaign sometimes takes on the appearance of a referendum to save the right to abortion, in a context of high inflation which is not favorable to them

Like during this meeting in Doylestown, a peaceful suburb north of Philadelphia, where the political branch of the family planning organization Planned Parenthood lends them a hand.

“Vital”

“Our patients do not come to our health centers for political reasons” or “for religious reasons: they come because they need care”, launches its vice-president Lindsey Mauldin , his organization's pink t-shirt under a white jacket.

“Patients arrive from Ohio or West Virginia”, the neighboring states which have restricted or prohibited abortion, she adds to AFP. Now, “Pennsylvania is a vital state for this treatment in the northeastern United States, even if it has fewer than 20 clinics providing it for 13 million inhabitants.

In the middle “My Body, My Choice” signs, 51-year-old stay-at-home mom Angela Jacobs says this is her first time getting involved.

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“I had an abortion when I was just over 20. For years, I felt a lot of shame and I never talked about it. Now I have a 20-year-old daughter and I want it to be accessible if she needs it,” she explains. Losing that choice, “women cannot afford it”.

“Silent Majority”

University of Pittsburgh history professor Lara Putnam notes that since the Supreme Court's ruling, Democrats have won more voters registering to vote — and indicating their political affiliation — than Democrats. Republicans.

“A clean break” that temporarily reverses a structural trend in the state, where Democrats have seen their old industrial-age base shrink for decades, she says.

Sufficient to tip the balance during the vote? Near Doylestown, in front of his roadside house, Randy Charlins, a 61-year-old Republican voter, hardly believes it.

For this bar manager, “Dr Oz”, the nickname of Mehmet Oz, a TV star doctor invested by the Republicans, “will be elected” against Democrat John Fetterman, another atypical candidate, former mayor of a small town who suffered from deindustrialization, known for his colossal build and his hoodies.

“It's very tight. But I think there is a silent majority. There are many conservatives who are silent because they are afraid,” he says, on the porch of his house, where the garlands are already piled up for Christmas.

In any case, to hope to fill up the votes on the left and in the center throughout the country, President Joe Biden promised on Tuesday to enshrine the right to abortion in federal law as early as January in the event of a Democratic victory in Congress. .

Mute

But for Randy Charlins, the problem remains inflation, confirmed by a national poll from Siena College on Monday in the New York Times : 18% of voters make it their priority issue, against 5% for abortion.

“I see my clients, who came maybe three times a week (…) now they only come once. Inflation affects my income, but also that of my boss, which means that he cannot increase me”, he describes.

As in the rest of the country, Republicans have muted their positions on abortion, aware that it could cost them votes.

Their campaign clips mainly focus on the fight against crime and inflation, brandishing the threat of the legalization of all drugs and an explosion of insecurity with John Fetterman.

The Democrats are happy to remind them that Mehmet Oz and Pennsylvania's Republican gubernatorial candidate, Doug Mastriano, took a stand for restrictions or a near total ban on abortion.

Pennsylvania gave Donald Trump a slight edge in 2016, before placing Joe Biden narrowly in the lead in 2020.