Doug Mastriano’s Extreme Abortion Ban Would “Turn the Keystone State Into a Pariah”
“The Long-Term Consequences [of Mastriano’s Extreme Anti-Choice Agenda] Would Likely Reach Far Beyond Women’s Health”
Doug Mastriano’s “number one issue” is outlawing abortion without exceptions, but a new column by Will Bunch in the Philadelphia Inquirer highlights that “Mastriano’s extreme take on reproductive rights … is just one piece of a broader agenda that would make Pennsylvania less attractive to young job seekers,” and outlines the dangers of “Mastrianoland.”
Why would a start-up company — possibly the next Duolingo — open in Philadelphia when citizens have more rights in New Jersey, New York, or Maryland? And this would be before Mastriano and friends took the ax to public schools, or finished the job of decimating Pitt, Lincoln, Temple, and Penn State over social issues.
While Pennsylvania-based companies including Duolingo, Dicks Sporting Goods, and Giant Eagle have already spoken out against Republicans’ extreme abortion bans, Bunch notes that Mastriano’s unpopular plan to outlaw abortion without exceptions — and criminalize medical professionals for performing abortions — wouldn’t just have dire economic impacts on businesses, but “higher-ed would be undermined quite a bit under a Mastriano administration,” too.
The impact of right-wing “culture war” policies could devastate recruiting for good-paying jobs from the pharmaceutical belt of the Philly suburbs to the high-tech gullies that salvaged Pittsburgh from its industrial past, the biggest impact would likely fall upon Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities.
Pennsylvanians of all political stripes have criticized Mastriano for his dangerous plans to take away rights, but in case you missed it, check out this latest example of how “the long-term consequences (of Mastriano’s extreme anti-choice agenda) would likely reach far beyond women’s health.”
This week’s looming cliffhanger in Harrisburg — over whether GOP lawmakers can make good on their threat to wreak fiscal havoc on Pennsylvania’s four state-supported universities in a “culture war” over fetal-tissue research at the University of Pittsburgh — is also a preview of some scary coming attractions if extremist state Sen. Doug Mastriano wins the governor’s race in November.
For voters who are still shell-shocked from last month’s reversal of a half-century of U.S. abortion rights by a runaway Supreme Court, the initial fears are largely around the core moral questions: the stripping of what once seemed like a guaranteed women’s right, and the immediate implications for the health of those who become pregnant.
But if the staunchly anti-abortion Mastriano — currently polling within the margin of error against Democratic opponent Josh Shapiro — rides a predicted GOP midterm wave of voter anger over inflation and President Joe Biden’s unpopularity, and if his victory also were to extend the right-wing dominance in the legislature, the long-term consequences would likely reach far beyond women’s health.
An extreme abortion ban in Pennsylvania will turn the Keystone State into a pariah for many of the nation’s best and brightest young people when they are deciding where to attend college, and not only stunt but probably reverse the growth of high-tech and professional jobs that have fueled the 21st century revival of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and their suburbs.
The first hint of the commonwealth’s dark future came just hours after the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling that overturned Roe vs. Wade, when the CEO of Pittsburgh-based Duolingo — the leader in language learning founded in 2009 by a Carnegie Mellon professor and now employing 500 people — said his firm would turn its focus away from Pennsylvania if an abortion ban is enacted here.
“To all Pennsylvania politicians: I love that @duolingo is headquartered in Pittsburgh and that y’all use it as an example that successful tech companies can start here,” the founder, Luis von Ahn, wrote on Twitter. “If PA makes abortion illegal, we won’t be able to attract talent and we’ll have to grow our offices elsewhere.”
Three things worth noting here. The first is that Mastriano’s extreme take on reproductive rights — he has sponsored legislation that would ban abortion at six weeks, even in cases of rape, incest, and threats to the life of the mother — is just one piece of a broader agenda that would make Pennsylvania less attractive to young job seekers. The Republican has also promised anti-LGBTQ legislation around transgender sports and public bathrooms, and supports radical education reform that would seek to fund Pennsylvania’s public schools on a per-pupil basis comparable to Mississippi.
Second, while the impact of right-wing “culture war” policies could devastate recruiting for good-paying jobs from the pharmaceutical belt of the Philly suburbs to the high-tech gullies that salvaged Pittsburgh from its industrial past, the biggest impact would likely fall upon Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities. Although the state currently ranks among the worst in public funding of higher education and in student debt, those deep flaws haven’t fully undermined a thriving tradition of academia here dating back to Benjamin Franklin’s role in founding the University of Pennsylvania in the 1740s.
But higher-ed would be undermined quite a bit under a Mastriano administration. That’s because most experts predict significant drops in applications and likely enrollment at colleges in states that have banned abortion, or passed laws seen as hostile to the LGBTQ community. One New Jersey college admissions counselor told Politico back in April that “students have told me, ‘I really want to go to Texas [the University of Texas at Austin], but I’m taking them off my list’” — after Texas implemented a law that effectively stopped abortions even before the Supreme Court ruling.
This on top of other issues — forced birth on campus, confusion over women’s health treatment, problems in retaining faculty — are expected to make post-Roe America a nightmare for colleges. For one example, Penn — in competing for top students against the seven other Ivy League institutions — could suddenly find itself the league’s only school in a state where abortion is effectively banned.
Think about what has kept the Pennsylvania economy — once based on mining and heavy industry like Pittsburgh’s steel mills and Philly as “the Workshop of the World” — doing OK, and you see the strength of the “eds and meds” sector with dollops of urban start-up culture. All these things hinge on the ability of luring, or retaining, college graduates.
Now consider this third point: A Republican hat trick in Harrisburg would mean yanking that keystone from the middle of a progressive-minded Eastern Seaboard. A year from now, Pennsylvania could be the only state in a long coastal stretch from Maine to Virginia that has outlawed abortion and further curtailed LGBTQ rights. Why would a start-up company — possibly the next Duolingo — open in Philadelphia when citizens have more rights in New Jersey, New York, or Maryland? And this would be before Mastriano and friends took the ax to public schools, or finished the job of decimating Pitt, Lincoln, Temple, and Penn State over social issues.
Instead, “Mastrianoland” would be aligned, politically, with a growing Bible Belt that continues into Ohio on our western border and stretches all the way out to Idaho. This increasingly looks to be America’s fate — two separate lands, much as existed in 1861, with one giant swath in the middle striding toward theocracy while territory largely bordering the Atlantic and Pacific clings, imperfectly, to a vision of diversity.
This November, Pennsylvania will have to pick a side.