Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, who for a long time has described himself as “pro-life,” said Wednesday that he will vote with other Democrats to codify abortion rights.
In a statement, Casey announced that he will vote in favor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that would enshrine the right to an abortion into federal law and make state laws banning or restricting abortion access illegal.
“This week, I will again vote yes to advance debate on the Women’s Health Protection Act and I will support the bill if there is a vote on final passage in the future,” Casey said.
The WHPA was brought up for a vote in the Senate in March but failed because Republicans filibustered. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced plans to bring it up for another vote last week after a draft Supreme Court majority opinion that upheld Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban and overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision was leaked.
Democrats believe that overturning Roe is unpopular and that the abortion issue could galvanize support for the party in the upcoming midterm elections this November. Some polling indicates that Americans generally oppose overturning Roe by as much as a two-to-one margin, but polls that ask about specific abortion restrictions show majority support for 15-week or 6-week abortion bans, both of which would be unconstitutional under Roe‘s precedent.
But among the party’s radical left-wing base, the pro-life position is increasingly intolerable, and self-described pro-life Democrats have been targeted for primary challenges by the extreme left.
Casey, who is up for re-election in 2024, is now taking a position that clearly contradicts his previous assertions that Roe should be overturned. In his statement, he seized on a suggestion from Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that national abortion restrictions would be “possible” in a post-Roe world to justify his flip-flop.
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“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. 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?” Casey said.
“During my time in public office, I have never voted for — nor do I support — such a ban,” he added.
It is also true that during his time in office, Casey has scored as high as 100 percent on NARAL Pro-Choice America’s scorecard in 2016 and 2017 and has voted with Planned Parenthood’s position 75 percent of the time since 2011, raising questions on whether his supposed pro-life convictions were ever sincere.
Casey defended his voting record in a 2018 interview with Politico the last time he was up for re-election.
“I think it’s clear to most people that the description of pro-life Democrat is accurate. I’ve been very consistent,” he said. “What it means is 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.”
However, were the WHPA to become law and state abortion restrictions come down, the number of abortions would surely increase, and Casey said today he will vote for it.