Christine Clarke, the Democratic nominee for State Senate in the Morris county-based 26th district, released a new video today aiming to draw a clear contrast between herself and her opponent, State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville), on the issue of abortion.
“Are women people?” Clarke asks rhetorically. “Do people have rights over their own bodies? My opponent, incumbent Senator Joe Pennacchio, thinks it’s fine to legislate what a woman may do with her body.”
Clarke goes on to reference the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill Pennacchio has sponsored in three consecutive legislative sessions; the bill would ban abortions in the state 20 weeks after fertilization.
“This is the time of year when we reflect on how to protect the most vulnerable members of society,” Pennacchio said in 2016, when he and several other senators first introduced the bill. “That is why we chose today to call on those who control the legislative agenda to stand up for the rights of innocent unborn children.”
In a statement released concurrently to the new video, Clarke tied Pennacchio’s positions to the Supreme Court’s recent refusal to block a Texas law banning abortions after six weeks.
“Joe Pennacchio’s extreme positions are a threat to women’s rights, safety and wellness,” Clarke said. “In light of what has happened to women in Texas, we can’t allow legislators in New Jersey who take similarly horrifying positions on women’s rights to threaten rescinding personal control over basic and important freedoms, nor hard-fought rights generations of women before us have secured.”
But in the historically Republican district, it’s tough to tell whether Democrats or Republicans hold the upper hand on abortion.
According to a survey conducted by the pro-abortion advocacy group National Institute for Reproductive Health in March, 68% of New Jersey voters think abortion should be legal in most or all cases. Still, the 26th district voted for former President Donald Trump, who cast himself as a staunch opponent of abortion, by around two percentage points in 2020.
The district also hasn’t elected a Democrat to the legislature since Assemblyman John Sinsimer (D-Pompton Lakes) won a second term in the 1973 Watergate landslide. In 2017, Pennacchio was re-elected by a 56-44% margin against Democrat Elliot Isibor.