Sen. Bob Casey Says He Will Support Democrats’ Women’s Health Protection Act and Abortion Legislation

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Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. said Tuesday that he would support legislation that would codify Roe vs. Wade into law, a dramatic shift for one of the few remaining Democrats in Congress with relatively conservative views on abortion rights.

Casey of Pennsylvania said she will vote yes to advance debate on the Women’s Health Protection Act this week and will support the bill if there is a vote on its final passage. She added that the “circumstances around the entire abortion debate” had changed since the House last voted on the bill nearly three months ago.

“In light of the leaked Supreme Court draft decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, and subsequent reports that Republicans in the US House and Senate will introduce legislation to enact a nationwide six-week ban, the real question of the moment is: Do you support an outright ban on abortion? Casey said in a statement. “During my time in public office, I never voted for, nor did I support, such a ban.”

The Senate is set to vote Wednesday on moving the bill forward, an effort likely to fail due to Republican opposition.

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Casey is the son of Robert P. Casey, who fought a battle as Governor of Pennsylvania against Planned Parenthood that ultimately led to the landmark 1992 Supreme Court decision. Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

After the Supreme Court’s majority opinion draft overturned Roe vs. Wade Leaked last week, Senator Casey stressed that he had “serious concerns about what it will mean to overturn nearly 50 years of legal precedent for women in states that pass near-total or near-total abortion bans.”

Characterizing Casey’s record on abortion is more complicated than it is for most of his fellow Democrats. She helped promote the Women’s Health Protection Act this year. But when Republicans controlled the Senate majority, Casey backed a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. She also supported the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions.

However, those positions have not won him much favor with anti-abortion groups emphasizing votes in Supreme Court nominations as a litmus test for senators and Senate candidates. In that, Casey has been consistent, voting against all three of President Donald Trump’s top court nominees.

Casey said Tuesday that he did not speak with Sen. Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.), the other anti-abortion Democrat in the Senate, before making his announcement, though he noted that he has spoken with Manchin about the issue in the past.

When asked if his own personal beliefs had changed, Casey said “it really was about a bill.”

“I think when people across the country are so concerned about an issue, especially women and their families, you need to make it clear how you’re going to vote on a bill even though we’re not in the… finals. passage,” she said.

Casey added that the labels that have long described this debate, such as “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” seem to have changed.

“I think it all boils down now to [abortion] Ban or no ban,” Casey said. “I think that’s the way it’s going to be in the future. And this bill is a direct rejection of the abortion ban, and I support it.”

Casey was re-elected to his third term in the Senate in 2018 and will not seek re-election again until 2024.

Leigh Ann Caldwell and Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.

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