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Penn State students on how the issue of abortion is influencing their vote

Fetterman Shapiro rally outside Old Main
Alysa Rubin
Many Penn State students at the Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman rally outside Old Main said abortion was factoring into their vote this election.

With Roe v. Wade struck down, many Penn State students say abortion is a top issue in deciding their vote on Tuesday.

Hailey Onweller is a second-year student studying computer science. She said that women’s rights are one of the top issues influencing her decision to vote Democratic in the upcoming election.

“I just think that as a female, I and my fellow females, deserve the right to make decisions for ourselves,” Onweller said.

In a Muhlenberg College poll in September of 420 likely voters, 20% said abortion was the most important issue in deciding their vote this election. That was second only to the economy at 22%.

In a near tie race for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat, Republican Mehmet Oz has said he personally opposes abortion, but believes abortion rights should be in the hands of each individual state, not the federal government. In the only debate between Oz and Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman, Oz said abortion choices should be made by women, doctors and “local political leaders.”

At a rally at Penn State on Nov. 2, Fetterman said he would support eliminating the filibuster to add abortion rights to federal law.

“I’m here to offer you my bargain, my promise to you," Fetterman said. "If you send me to Washington D.C., I will be that 51st vote.”

Abortion access was a big issue for students at the Shapiro and Fetterman rally.

Jackson Newsum is a third-year student studying international relations and philosophy. He’s registered to vote in Texas, but he said he’s voting Democratic there because he doesn’t agree with Republicans’ views on abortion.

“It’s everything. I mean the women’s right to choose is everything. It’s an extremely important cause that is in danger right now because of these radical extremist Republicans coming in,” Newsum said.

Currently in Pennsylvania, abortion is legal until 24 weeks of pregnancy. After that time, state law only allows for an abortion in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the pregnant person. But with a Republican state legislature, a Republican governor could mean the end of access in Pennsylvania.

In the race for governor, Democrat Josh Shapiro has said he would veto any legislation further limiting abortion access.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano – who is trailing in polls – has said if he’s elected he will support banning all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of the pregnant person.

Stella Begnal is a third-year majoring in digital arts and media design. She said she is voting for Shapiro and Fetterman because of Mastriano’s stance on abortion.

“Doug Mastriano is so extreme," Begnal said. "Even the audacity to say publicly that a parent should be charged with murder, even to have the sense to think that's even okay to speak is just so severe, so extreme.”

In a 2019 interview with WITF, Mastriano said women who violated an abortion ban should be charged with murder.

Anna Schabel, a third-year student majoring in political science, agreed with Begnal, and said she can’t believe we’re even having this conversation.

“If Doug Mastriano comes in and what he’s saying he’s going to ban it completely, no exceptions for the mother, no exceptions for anything. And he wants to charge women with murder and put doctors in jail. It’s crazy. I mean, it’s 2022,” Schabel said.

But for some students, abortion isn’t a deciding issue.

Alexis Kauffman was not at the rally. She is a third-year student studying political science. She said she’ll be voting Republican in the upcoming election.

“Personally, I am very much pro-choice, but as much as I am very much pro-choice it’s not influencing my decision on November 8th,” Kauffman said.

According to the same Muhlenberg College poll, 61% of Pennsylvania voters support abortion being legal in all or most cases. That's similar to the numbers in national polls.

Casey Zanowic is a WPSU radio news intern for fall 2022.