In the race for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, former hedge fund manager Dave McCormick unveiled an ad that squarely attacked Dr. Mehmet Oz, McCormick’s top rival for the Republican nomination, on abortion.
The minute-long video opens with a clip of Oz in a Senate debate saying: “There isn’t, to my knowledge, evidence that I’m not ‘pro-life.’”
Then there are clips of Oz talking about abortion in a radio interview that the ad labels, “Evidence from 2019.”
The ad ends with these words on the screen: “Mehmet Oz. Pro-abortion. Anti-life. Hollywood liberal.”
Politicians often use “pro-life,” “pro-choice” or “pro-abortion,” even though the labels lack precise meanings.
In the 2019 interview, Oz, a heart surgeon and attending physician at New York Presbyterian-Columbia Medical Center, was “pro-abortion” in that he spoke in favor of access to the procedure. But he also said he was personally opposed to the procedure and would advise his family members against having one.
And while campaigning to win the May 17 primary, Oz has turned more ardently anti-abortion, touting himself as “100% pro-life” and celebrating the draft opinion by saying he supports overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that provides the national right to an abortion.
The draft opinion would return to the pre-Roe world, where states set their own laws. There could be small or significant changes in the draft as justices weigh in before a final decision, which is expected in late June or early July.
Oz in 2019 criticized abortion restrictions
McCormick’s ad relies on the Oz radio interview comments, which are shown in video clips. The clips are from Oz’s appearance on “The Breakfast Club,” a nationally syndicated show with a mostly Black audience, on May 21, 2019. At the time, Oz was a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and hosted his own television show.
Oz was asked about a law signed six days earlier by Alabama’s Republican Gov. Kay Ivey that would have banned nearly all abortions in that state. The law was later blocked in federal court. The question led to a seven-minute discussion about abortion.
Oz said he didn’t want to interfere with other people’s decisions about getting an abortion, and indicated that states should decide laws on abortion. He expressed support for access to abortion, but opposition to abortion personally.
“I think the law was really only passed to generate a Supreme Court challenge. But most people don’t know that they’re pregnant. It’s two weeks past your last period when you have to decide by….And it’s also banned in case of incest and rape. So, I don’t quite get it, as a doctor,” he said.
A host on the show said she was concerned that women would seek dangerous illegal abortions.
“As a doctor, just putting my doctor hat on, it’s a big-time concern,” Oz said. “Because I went to medical school in Philadelphia and I saw women who’d had coat-hanger events. They’re really traumatic events that happen, when they were younger, before Roe v. Wade. And many of them were harmed for life. Emotionally, there’s scarring anyway.
“At a personal level, I wouldn’t want anyone in my family to have an abortion. I told my kids this, I love the lives that they’re creating so much that I personally wouldn’t want it. But I don’t want to interfere with everyone else’s stuff, because it’s hard enough getting through life as it is.”
Oz warned that Alabama’s law could have economic consequences, saying, “You want to ban abortion, make that loud and clear, but there’s going to be a big sucking sound of businesses leaving there.”
“If someone deep in their heart feels that the moment of conception is a human life, and they just can’t deal with that life being harmed, they got to be heard, they can’t get ignored. But that doesn’t mean that’s what the rule of the land is.”
Excerpts from the same interview are used in two other ads attacking Oz that were released after the draft opinion was published. One is a McCormick ad that also labels Oz as “pro-abortion.” The other ad, from the pro-McCormick Honor Pennsylvania super PAC, questions whether Oz is “pro-life.”
On May 5, 2022, Oz was asked in a Philadelphia radio interview if he had changed his position since the 2019 interview. Oz replied that he said in the 2019 interview that he was “pro-life,” but supported the three major exceptions for abortions, to protect the life of the mother, and in cases of rape or incest.
To back its “pro-abortion” claim, McCormick’s campaign pointed us to articles citing the 2019 interview and to a 2008 article in the National Review of Medicine, a publication for Canadian physicians.
In the 2008 article, Oz was quoted as saying he was “not socially conservative,” and that “we should not be creating obstacles during the difficult time that women have when trying to terminate a pregnancy.”
Oz’s anti-abortion statements in campaign
During the campaign, Oz has decried legislation that he describes as Democrats’ “pro-abortion agenda.”
Oz’s campaign website describes him as “100% pro-life.” And he says “life starts at conception.”
Oz campaign spokesperson Brittany Yanick told PolitiFact that Oz “has never said that he supports abortions” and that he is “adamantly opposed to abortion.”
However, Oz told a Pennsylvania TV station in December that he supports allowing abortions to protect the life of the mother, and in cases of rape or incest.
He added: “I’m OK with the Supreme Court making the right decision based on what they think the Constitution says.”
Oz praised the draft ruling, tweeting: “The Court is right. Roe was wrongly decided. Abortion laws should be left up to the American people and their elected representatives. I look forward to supporting pro-life legislation that saves innocent lives in the U.S. Senate.”
Contest could help decide Senate control
Besides McCormick and Oz, the major Republican candidates are commentator Kathy Barnette, real estate developer Jeff Bartos, Philadelphia attorney George Bochetto and Carla Sands, who served as Trump’s ambassador to Denmark.
McCormick said Oz is “pro-abortion.”
Before his Senate race, Oz was more open to abortion access. He spoke against restrictive abortions laws, citing his hospital experience, though he said he personally opposed abortion.
As a candidate, Oz describes himself as “pro-life” and supports overturning Roe v. Wade. But he supports allowing abortions in cases such as rape and incest.
McCormick’s ad misleads voters about the positions Oz said he would hold as an elected leader. We rate the statement Mostly False.