After the social wars of the 1990s and the "war on women" last year, you might be forgiven for thinking the abortion debate was moving out of electoral politics. But that's not the case; expect a big debate over abortion rights in Pennsylvania next year.
That's because Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday signed into law a bill restricting coverage for abortions under the federal health insurance exchange established by the Affordable Care Act.
Corbett signed the bill just as national Democrats seek to reignite the "War on Women" charges that hurt Republicans last cycle. Controversial comments made last week by Rep. Trent Franks, along with the House GOP's push for stricter federal abortion regulations on the floor today, have provided Democrats with renewed opportunities to criticize Republicans on social issues.
And Corbett's most likely opponent, Rep. Allyson Schwartz, has a handy tool to draw the contrast: Her own professional background. Before entering politics, Schwartz, the early favorite for the Democratic nomination, ran a women's health clinic in Philadelphia that performed abortions. Schwartz told the Philadelphia Daily News earlier this month that she's "not afraid" of the abortion debate, but some Pennsylvania Democrats have privately expressed concern that Republicans will use the issue to alienate her from some moderate Democrats and independents outside her Southeast Pennsylvania base.
Regardless of Schwartz's vulnerabilities, Corbett's numbers among women are already troubling. In Quinnipiac University's most recent poll, conducted earlier this month, 55 percent of female voters said the governor doesn't deserve to be reelected.
While strategists from both sides can debate which candidate is more vulnerable on social issues, two things appear likely: The abortion debate isn't settled, and a Corbett-Schwartz matchup would be the next battleground on which it's fought.