Bob Casey changes stance, says he will support a federal law to preserve abortion rights

The U.S. senator for Pa., who has previously called himself “pro-life,” said he does not support a categorical ban on abortion.

Sen. Bob Casey speaking at a union rally in Philadelphia, April 2022

Sen. Bob Casey speaking at a union rally in Philadelphia, April 2022

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is taking a step toward supporting abortion rights. It’s a noteworthy development for the Pennsylvania senator, given his history of identifying as “pro-life” — an unusual stance for a Democrat.

Casey on Tuesday issued a statement saying he does not support a ban on abortion. Furthermore, he affirmed plans to vote in favor of a law that would preserve abortion rights even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade — an apparent shift from his previous stance.

“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.

His statement noted that “circumstances around the entire debate on abortion have changed” since the last time senators voted on the same bill.

Casey’s position has been in the spotlight since a draft of a Supreme Court decision leaked last week, indicating a likelihood the justices will vote to overturn the landmark cases that has for decades protected abortion access in the U.S. After the leak, Casey expressed concern, and said lawmakers should be “working to reduce the number of abortions and unintended pregnancies.”

His statement Tuesday more overtly denounced abortion bans.

“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.”

Protests have been near constant since the opinion was leaked, in D.C. and locally in Philadelphia. Numerous public figures, including many local elected officials, have spoken out in support of abortion rights.

The last vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act was in February. While Casey voted to advance debate on the act, he was one of just two Democratic senators who did not co-sponsor the bill. The legislation ultimately did not garner enough support to overcome a Republican filibuster — when senators exercise their right to unlimited debate, which can keep a bill from being voted on indefinitely.

Ahead of that vote in February, Casey explained his vote in a statement, noting “the Republican Party’s clear and unrelenting use of this issue as a political weapon.”

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s other U.S. Senate seat will soon be up for grabs. Pat Toomey, a Republican, is not running for reelection.

Ten candidates — six Republicans and four Democrats — are running in the primary next week.

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