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Mehmet Oz in May audio: Abortion is 'murder' at any stage of pregnancy

The Senate nominee from Pennsylvania made the remarks as he was fighting in the Republican primary, according to audio of a tele-town hall obtained by NBC News.

Pennsylvania Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz said in May that abortion at any stage of pregnancy is "still murder" because he believes that life begins at conception, according to newly obtained audio.

“I do believe life starts at conception, and I’ve said that multiple times," Oz, a Republican, said at the time in a tele-town hall, going on to add: "If life starts at conception, why do you care what stage our hearts starts beating at? It’s, you know, it’s still murder, if you were to terminate a child whether their heart’s beating or not."

“If you want to know the actual date, it’s usually at nine weeks that the heart starts beating. Prior to that, you have cells that are starting to connect with each other but they’re not beating in the way that you would see it on an echocardiogram,” he said.

The remarks, first reported by the Daily Beast, came May 10, while Oz was still fighting for the Republican nomination in a contested primary, which he won May 17. Audio of the event was obtained by NBC News on Wednesday.

Oz was responding to a questioner who said she was "concerned" about his position regarding heartbeats and abortion, seeking to know "why someone who's pro-life should vote for you."

Oz faces Democrat John Fetterman in the Nov. 8 election for an open seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

Asked about the audio, Oz campaign spokeswoman Brittany Yanick said in an email Wednesday, “Dr. Oz is pro-life and supports exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. It’s quite the contrast from John Fetterman who supports abortion up until the moment of birth.”

What Fetterman has said he supports is the Women's Health Protection Act, which would codify legal abortion nationwide and prevent states from outlawing it. After the Supreme Court ruling, he tweeted his support for abortion access, saying "abortions will still happen whether it's illegal or not."

Fetterman campaign spokesman Joe Calvello said in an email: “Oz knows his abortion position isn’t popular. That’s why you need a hot mic in order to hear it.”

During the GOP primary, one of Oz's rivals was Kathy Barnette, who became a favorite of social conservatives after highlighting her story of being conceived from rape and opposing exceptions to abortion.

Asked in an April debate whether there should be exceptions to outlawing abortion, Oz said: "There should be an exception for the life of the mother. We don't want mothers dying as they try to give birth to a child."

He didn't mention exceptions for rape or incest.

The abortion issue has grown in salience on the 2022 campaign trail after five Republican-appointed justices on the Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade in June, allowing states or Congress to ban abortion. Democrats have highlighted the issue to motivate voters — who polls say widely believe abortion should be mostly or always legal to expand their majorities so they can pass national abortion protections.

A section on Oz’s issues page says he “knows how precious life is and is 100% Pro-Life.” In an accompanying video, Oz says: “I’m pro-life. Life starts at conception. That’s how I feel.”