Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), one of the last remaining Democrats who describes himself as “pro-life,” announced Tuesday that he intends to vote for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would enshrine abortion rights in 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,” he 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,” he added.
While the bill still appears to have no chance of passing — it is subject to Republicans’ filibuster and likely lacks the support of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) even if it were to somehow circumvent the 60-vote threshold — it’s a major shift for the Pennsylvania senator. It also shows how quickly and drastically the debate over abortion has changed, now that the right to it appears to be nearing its demise.
Casey’s change in stance is not completely out of the blue. His voting record in Congress is mixed, but much more aligned with abortion rights groups than his Republican peers. He voted for a proposed 20-week abortion ban in 2018, but has also voted against a plan to block government funding from going to Planned Parenthood and has opposed more draconian state-level bans. He voted to begin debate on the Women’s Health Protection Act last year, though Republicans filibustered it before the legislation could advance.
He has largely earned positive marks on his voting record from groups like Planned Parenthood.
“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. “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.”
Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey Sr. (D), signed the abortion restrictions that were upheld in the landmark abortion case Planned Parenthood v. Casey and was famous for his anti-abortion politics.