Republican Pennsylvania Senate candidate and former celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz referred to abortion as “murder” during a tele-townhall in May, according to audio obtained by The Hill. 

“I do believe life starts at conception, and I’ve said that multiple times,” Oz said in the audio.   

“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,” he said. 

The Senate candidate was responding to a question from a caller, who voiced concerns over his stance on heartbeats and whether life begins at conception. 

The Daily Beast was the first outlet to report on the remarks, which were made during a tele-townhall on May 10, a week before Oz won the Republican Senate nomination. 

Oz has said that there should be exceptions made for performing the procedure in cases where the pregnant person’s life is in jeopardy. 

His campaign reiterated his stance in a statement to NBC News responding to the unearthed audio. 

“Dr. Oz is pro-life and supports exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. It’s quite the contrast from [Lt. Gov.] John Fetterman [D] who supports abortion up until the moment of birth,” said Brittany Yanick, a spokesperson for the campaign. 

The development comes as Democrats lean into the issue of abortion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June. Democrats and abortion rights advocates saw victories on the issue in a Kansas ballot amendment vote earlier this month, and some Democratic candidates successfully won on the issue in special elections. 

Oz is facing Fetterman in the Senate race. Polls paint a picture of an increasingly favorable environment for Fetterman, with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report moving the race’s rating from “toss up” to “lean Democratic.” 

Fetterman’s campaign seized on Oz’s resurfaced comments in a statement on Wednesday. 

“Oz knows his abortion position isn’t popular. That’s why you need a hot mic in order to hear it. Dr. Oz is wildly out of touch with the people of Pennsylvania who support abortion rights by 9-10,” said Fetterman campaign spokesperson Emilia Rowland. “Dr. Oz wants to let extremists ban abortion with no exceptions in cases of rape or incest—in PA and across the country. If he’s elected, he will be a rubber stamp to criminalize abortion, appoint justices even more radical than today’s, and send doctors, nurses, and patients to jail.”