Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who had billed himself as a “pro-life” Democrat, announced Tuesday he intends to vote for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which could potentially enshrine abortion rights into federal law.
“In the nearly three months since the Senate last voted on the Women’s Health Protection Act, the circumstances around the entire debate on abortion have changed,” Casey said in a statement.
“In light of the leaked Supreme Court decision draft overturning Roe v. Wade, and subsequent reports that Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate will introduce legislation to enact a nationwide six-week ban, the real question of the moment is: do you support a categorical ban on abortion?
“During my time in public office I have never voted for — nor do I support — such a ban,” said Casey.
The Casey news comes on the heels of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., promising an imminent floor vote on elevating abortion rights.
Schumer offered this tweet on Monday:
“This week’s vote on abortion rights is not an abstract exercise. This is as real and high stakes as it gets.
“Senate Republicans will no longer be able to hide from the horror they’ve unleashed upon women in America. We will see where every single senator stands.”
Schumer’s tweet may be full of bluster, but here’s a reality check:
1) Dating to the 1976 presidential election, three years after the Roe v. Wade ruling, then-President Gerald Ford reportedly ran on the Republican-endorsed platform of overturning the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision.
Citing this Charles W. Cooke tweet, Ford in 1976 wrote:
“We protest the Supreme Court’s intrusion into the family structure through its denial of the parents’ obligation and right to guide their minor children. The Republican Party favors a continuance of the public dialogue on abortion and supports the efforts of those who seek enactment of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children.”
2) Modern-day American voters likely understand the vast majority of House and Senate Republicans are either pro-life, or support an early termination period up to 15 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy. Therefore, there likely wouldn’t be too many Republican-related surprises with the voting results of Schumer’s bill.
3) Last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged that Democrats likely wouldn’t have enough votes to pass any abortion laws. The current threshold of Senate votes needed for passage would be 60.
With a filibuster carve-out, it would require 51 “yes” votes.
According to MSN, Casey’s philosophical switch is “not completely out of the blue.” His mixed voting record, through the years, has slightly aligned more with abortion rights groups than his Republican colleagues.
Casey reportedly voted for a proposed 20-week abortion ban in 2018. However, he also voted against a plan to block government funding from going to Planned Parenthood.
Casey also voted to begin debate on the February 2022 version of the Women’s Health Protection Act, though Republicans filibustered the legislation before it could advance.
“I think it’s clear to most people that the description of pro-life Democrat is accurate. I’ve been very consistent,” Casey told Politico in 2018.
Casey added: “I try to support policies that help women and children both before and after birth. Part of that is making sure you are honest about differences but also at the same time trying to focus on ways to reduce both the number of abortions and the number of unwanted pregnancies, and I think my record reflects that.”
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