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Democratic judge says abortion is defining issue in Pennsylvania Supreme Court race

‘In Pennsylvania, we elect judges, and people have a right to know where you stand on those issues,’ Daniel McCaffery said.

By Rebekah Sager - October 17, 2023
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Candidate for Pennsylvania Supreme Court Judge Daniel McCaffery speaks at a women's organizing event and canvass launch in Norristown, PA Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Ryan Collerd)
Candidate for Pennsylvania Supreme Court Judge Daniel McCaffery speaks at a women's organizing event and canvass launch in Norristown, PA Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Ryan Collerd)

One of the most-watched races in Pennsylvania is the battle between Democratic Judge Daniel McCaffery and his Republican opponent, Judge Carolyn Carluccio.

McCaffery told the American Independent Foundation that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe v. Wade will be the defining issue in the race, adding that there are parallels between Carluccio and former President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominees.

“I mean, you had three individuals appointed by former President Trump that stood in front of the American public, each one of them answered questions the way that you would expect them regarding precedent, regarding stare decisis (Latin for “things decided”). And each one of them promised to follow the law,” McCaffery said. “And then each one of them basically overturned the law or changed the law and changed precedent, and disregarded what they said to the American public.”

Five of the seven justices on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court are Democrats. Although the open seat that McCaffery and Carluccio are running for will not upset the balance of power, three seats will be on the ballot in 2025.

Carluccio, a judge on the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, removed anti-abortion language from her campaign’s website after she won the Republican primary. She has been endorsed by two anti-abortion groups, the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation and the Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania.

McCaffery noted that the issue of abortion care didn’t even come up until after the state primaries.

It wasn’t until the Republicans basically started running as pro-life champions; fetuses have First Amendment rights, Second Amendment rights, and then immediately post-primary completely changed or scrubbed their website of any reference to pro-life, and completely changed their position,” McCaffery said.

McCaffery explained that when it comes to what the nation is seeing in politically divided and partisan courts dates back to what he calls a 30- or 40-year effort by the Federalist Society to pack the courts with conservative judges.

Founded in 1982, the Federalist Society is a conservative legal organization with about 60,000 members.

During his term, Trump nominated 234 federal judges as well as Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, most of whom have ties to or are members of the Federalist Society.

“When you have somebody who runs as a pro-life candidate who basically tells people I’m an originalist. That’s kind of a code word for… I mean, who else described themselves as an originalist? Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh to Neil Gorsuch. They’re telling you how they’re going to rule on these particular cases.” McCaffery said.

Carluccio has refused to offer her opinions on the Dobbs decision or her thoughts on what would happen if the state’s Abortion Control Act were to be repealed. Following the Dobbs decision, Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives tried to put a constitutional amendment before voters to say that abortion care was not protected in the Pennsylvania Constitution. In February, after three special elections, Democrats won the majority in the state House, gaining the power to block Republicans on abortion bans — including a constitutional amendment.

“In Pennsylvania, we elect judges, and people have a right to know where you stand on those issues. Because, and I mean this, I would much rather lose an election on the merits than win an election by being deceitful,” McCaffery said.

I think that Dobbs was wrongly decided. I think that abortion is literally covered under the privacy rights of our Constitution. I think Roe v. Wade was, in fact, good law. I think it was settled principle, settled precedent. And I can’t think of anything more private when you talk about privacy rights than that decision, which should be left between a woman, her doctor, and her conscience. Period. Full stop.

McCaffery said he sees a lot of similarities between what’s happening in the attacks against him and Republican attempts to impeach the newly seated liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz.

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has threatened to impeach Protasiewicz unless she refuses to recuse herself from redistricting and abortion rights cases.

McCaffery said if these kinds of political moves continue to happen, it will impact democracy itself.

“We’re looking at the end of liberal democracy if people continue to politicize the courts and people lose faith in the rule of law, because that’s the only thing that stands between us and anarchy,” he said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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