Pro-Life Democrat Bob Casey on Abortion Rights: Pennsylvania Senator Takes Key Vote

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Bob Casey is an outlier among his fellow Democrats in the United States Senate. As a pro-life Democrat, he wants to limit the number of abortions performed in the US, but he also does not approve of recent attempts by Republicans to weaponize the issue.

A draft of a US Supreme Court decision was leaked Monday night, indicating the likelihood that the justices will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Casey responded to the leaked opinion in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“If this draft opinion becomes the Court’s final opinion, I have serious concerns about what it will mean to overturn nearly 50 years of legal precedent for women in states that enact total or near-total abortion bans,” Casey said. . “Congress should work to reduce the number of abortions and unwanted pregnancies and do much more to support women and families.”

After the SCOTUS draft was leaked, abortion advocates renewed calls for federal lawmakers to pass legislation that would preserve abortion rights.

The United States House of Representatives passed the Women’s Health Protection Act last fall. The Senate then voted in late February, but the law failed to gain majority support.

Only two of 50 sitting Democratic senators refrained from co-sponsoring the bill. One was West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who eventually joined the Republicans (as he has on other issues) and voted against the bill moving forward.

The other holdout who refused to sponsor the bill was Casey, who throughout his political career has described himself as a pro-life Democrat. His father, former Pa. Gov. Bob Casey Sr., was famous for his life.

Casey, however, voted to start the debate on the law. He was one of 46 Democrats who voted to do so. Six senators, three Democrats and three Republicans, did not vote.

“Given the recent Supreme Court rulings, the potential rulings this year, and the GOP’s clear and unrelenting use of this issue as a political weapon, I will vote ‘yes’ to allow debate on this bill,” he said. Casey in a statement before the vote. โ€œI have long worked to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, and I hope that as part of this debate, we will also focus on substantial new funding for pregnant women, babies and children.โ€

Still, Casey’s vote for debate was not enough. The law needed 60 votes to overcome Republican filibuster, when senators exercise their right to unlimited debate, which can prevent a bill from being voted on indefinitely.

The bill was not actually expected to pass the Senate, but it did create a record of sitting senators’ position on the issue. The vote showed that even if all three nonvoting Democrats later endorsed the bill, it would lack a majority because of Manchin’s no vote.

A look back at his statements and votes provides insight into how he might respond if SCOTUS votes to end constitutional protections for abortion.

Casey has addressed her position as a pro-life Democrat before. In a 2018 interview with Politico, she said:

โ€œWhat it means is that I try to support policies that help women and children before and after childbirth. Part of that is making sure to be honest about the differences, but at the same time trying to focus on ways to reduce both the number of abortions and the number of unintended pregnancies, and I think my track record reflects that.”

Casey has said that she supports allowing abortion in cases of rape or incest.

He has also said that certain measures taken to limit abortions have gone too far. In an interview with the Morning Call in 2019, shortly after the passage of a near total ban on abortion in Alabama, he said:

โ€œMost Republicans have clearly committed to thisโ€ฆ litigation strategy, but I don’t think they’re getting much of it. โ€ฆ The policies that have reduced abortion the most have been increased access to health care, increased access to contraception, programs that support families.โ€

However, Casey also has a history of voting with the Republicans on some abortion-related issues.

In 2020, he voted for two anti-abortion bills sponsored by Republican senators. Both bills failed to advance.

One of them would have criminalized abortions carried out after 20 weeks of pregnancy (with the exception of a pregnancy that endangers the life of the woman or a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest). Casey and Manchin voted in favor.

The other bill would have required health care providers to make every attempt possible to save the life of a child born alive after an attempted abortion. Casey, Manchin and Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat from Alabama, voted for the bill.

Looking at Casey’s voting record from the perspective of advocacy groups shows how divided their stance has been.

Their votes aligned with NARAL Pro-Choice America 72% of the time in 2020, according to that organization’s Congressional Record on Reproductive Freedom. And his votes have aligned with Planned Parenthood’s priorities two-thirds of the time since 2015.

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