Casey Won't Say Whether He Agrees with Cardinal Rigali That There's 'No Way' Senate Health Care Bill Can Be Supported as Long as It Funds Abortion

December 2, 2009 - 3:28 PM
Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) won't say whether he agrees with Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, that the Senate health care bill cannot be supported because it allow tax dollars to go to insurance plans that cover abortion.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) (Photo courtesy of Casey's Senate Web site)

(CNSNews.com) – Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) won't say whether he agrees with Cardinal Justin Rigali, the archbishop of Philadelphia,  that there is "no way" the Senate health care bill can be supported as it currently stands because it permits tax dollars to fund health care plans that cover abortions.
 
“I’m not going to comment on what he [Rigali] has said in particular,” Casey said on Tuesday in a conference call with reporters.
 
But Casey indicated that, while he may vote for a Senate version of the pro-life amendment that Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) succeeded in getting attached to the House bill, he is not going to introduce the amendment himself. 
 
During the conference call, in which the senator dicussed legislation he has introduced to ensure health-care coverage for low-income children, CNSNews.com asked Casey the following: “Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia has said there is ‘no way’ the Senate health-care bill as it currently stands can be supported because it permits tax dollars to go to health plans that cover abortions. Do you agree with Cardinal Rigali that the bill as it stands cannot be supported?”
 
Casey, a self-described pro-life Democrat and Roman Catholic, would not say whether he agreed with Rigali, who is the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) committee for pro-life activities, and who speaks for the 300 bishops in the country on this issue.



 
“I’m not one who compares what I say versus what someone else says about the bill,” Casey told CNSNews.com. “I think it’s probably unfair to both sides to line up what I say versus what someone else says, so I’m not going to comment on what he has said in particular.”
 
He added: “I’ll state my position--which has been my position from the very beginning--which is that we’ve had a consensus in this country for more than two decades that taxpayer dollars don’t pay for abortions.” 

“What we’re trying to do in this debate, among many things we’re trying to achieve here, is to continue the consensus that’s been in existence for 25 years that taxpayer dollars don’t pay for abortion,” Casey said.
 
“It’s not easy to achieve that, it’s complicated, but that’s what we’re working on and that’s where we have this debate that’s taking place now on the floor with regard to abortion, as well as many, many other issues that are important to health care,” he added.
 
Cardinal Rigali  told CNSNews.com on Nov. 20 that there is “no way” Catholic members of Congress can support the Senate health care reform bill so long as it includes a provision that allows tax dollars to go to insurance plans that cover abortion. 
 
As Catholics, we "make a distinction between health care and killing,” Rigali said at the time. “So abortion is out of the question -- as we’ve spoken about the value of human life. And everyone is called upon to do everything possible to see that when we are trying to get laudable health care -- and that’s what we hope to get, laudable health care -- but certainly abortion will be excluded from that.”
 
The cardinal added that it is imperative for people to follow a “well-formed” conscience which would recognize that abortion is “absolutely wrong” and that there is “no way in the world” Catholics could support a health care bill if it contained a provision allowing tax dollars to go to abortion coverage.
 
Rigali added: “[A]ny bill that has abortion in it is in our opinion to be rejected.”
 
The House version of the legislation, which passed that chamber a month ago, contained a pro-life amendment that Stupak fought to have attached. It would extend the Hyde amendment to insurance coverage as laid out under the health reform bill.
 
The Hyde amendment blocks federal funds from going to pay for any part of an insurance plan that covers abortion, but the amendment applies only to the annual appropriation bills to which it is attached, and it lasts only for the fiscal year that the appropriation bill covers.
 
As it currently exists under federal law, then, the Hyde amendment would not apply to the programs set up under the health-care reform bill currently under consideration in Congress.
 
It bars any federal taxpayer money from going to pay for insurance coverage of abortion.
 
But when an Associated Press reporter asked Casey at Tuesday’s news conference if he was “open” to the possibility of filing an amendment to the Senate bill similar to Stupak’s House measure, the Pennsylvania senator seemed to hedge.
 
“[I] fully expect that we’ll likely have one or more amendments that were very similar to the abortion amendments that were voted on this summer in the [Senate] Health Committee bill,” Casey said, “and I’ll be voting as I did then for those amendments, if I think they are the right policy.”
 
He added: “I doubt it would be very much different from what happened this summer in the Health Education Labor Pensions Committee. I voted for those amendments on the pro-life side of it and also voted for final passage through the committee.”
 
But when pressed by the reporter to say if he foresaw himself “taking the initiative” to introduce a pro-life amendment like Stupak’s, the senator was non-committal.
 
“We don’t know yet because we don’t know what the amendments are going to be,” Casey said. “My understanding is that Sen. Hatch has an amendment which might be similar to that. I haven’t had a chance to review it yet, but that’s likely to be the way it will come to the floor. Beyond that I don’t know, I haven’t had a chance to see it.
 
Casey pointed to his amendment on children’s health insurance. He also said he plans to offer an amendment he said will help pregnant girls on college campuses who are victims of domestic violence. 

“I’m going to be offering an amendment that focuses on an area where people can actually agree,” Casey said. 

“I know that reporters don’t like to cover agreement. Disagreement is more interesting. But there actually is an area where I think -- not only on the issue of abortion, but even if abortion wasn’t a debate here -- we can all agree: that the United States of America, Democrats and Republicans together, are not doing nearly enough to help pregnant women, so I’m going to have an amendment on that.”
 
Earlier this month, Casey told CNSNews.com that though he supports an amendment to the health-care bill that would bar federal funds from paying for abortions in health care reform, but he would not draw any “lines in the sand” on the issue. 

The USCCB, which speaks for approximately 300 active Catholic bishops in the United States, has sent several letters to members of Congress urging lawmakers to protect taxpayer dollars to fund abortion in health-care reform bills. 
 
The transcript of Sen. Casey's comments are posted below: 

CNSNews.com: "Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia has said there is “no way” the Senate health care bill as it currently stands can be supported because it permits tax dollars to go to health plans that cover abortions.  And my question is, do you agree with Cardinal Rigali that the bill as it stands cannot be supported?"
 
Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.): "I’ll tell you my perspective.  I don’t—I’m not one who compares what I say versus what someone else says about the bill.  I think it’s probably unfair to both sides to line up what I say versus what someone else says, so I’m not going to comment on what he has said in particular.  I’ll state my position which has been my position from the very beginning which is that we’ve had a consensus in this country for more than two decades that taxpayer dollars don’t pay for abortions.  And in the consensus people on the left, right, and in the middle, people on both sides of the issue of abortion on this particular question about taxpayer dollars paying for abortion has been a consensus over all those years that we don’t want to have that as part of our public policy, and what we’re trying to do in this debate among many things we’re trying to achieve here, is to continue the consensus that’s been in existence for 25 years that taxpayer dollars don’t pay for abortion.  It’s not easy to achieve that, it’s complicated, but that’s what we’re working on and that’s where we have this debate that’s taking place now on the floor with regard to abortion as well as many, many other issues that are important to health care."
 
Associated Press reporter on the call: "This is Kim Hefling. Does that mean that you are open to the possibility of filing an amendment similar to Congressman Stupak’s?"
 
Sen. Casey:  "Here’s what’s going to happen.  We are going to have—like we will on a lot of these issues whether it’s abortion or whether it’s the public option or whether it’s provisions that deal with children’s health insurance, whether it’s provisions that deal with Medicaid or Medicare, all of these difficult challenges in the bill—the debate about them and the conflict about them will present themselves as amendments.  And I fully expect that we’ll likely have 1 or more amendments that were very similar to the abortion amendments that were voted on this summer in the Health Committee bill, and I’ll be voting as I did then for those amendments if I think they are the right policy.  I doubt it would be very much different from what happened this summer in the Health Education Labor Pensions Committee.  I voted for those amendments on the pro-life side of it and also voted for final passage through the committee."
 
AP Reporter: "But beyond that, do you foresee yourself taking the initiative on an amendment like Stupak’s?"
 
Sen. Casey:  "We don’t know yet because we don’t know what the amendments are going to be.  My understanding is that Sen. Hatch has an amendment which might be similar to that.  I haven’t had a chance to review it yet, but that’s likely to be the way it will come to the floor.  Beyond that I don’t know, I haven’t had a chance to see it. 
 
"Obviously, we filed our children’s health insurance amendment. I’m going to be offering an amendment that focuses on an area where people can actually agree. I know that reporters don’t like to cover agreement. Disagreement is more interesting.  But there actually is an area where I think not only on the issue of abortion, but even if abortion wasn’t a debate here, we can all agree that the United States of America, Democrats and Republicans together, are not doing nearly enough to help pregnant women, so I’m going to have an amendment on that. Especially, particularly vulnerable pregnant women who may be victims of domestic violence, young women on college campuses -- we’re not doing enough for those women in our society, and we need to do a lot more, and this is one of those opportunities where we can do the right thing and also have some area of agreement because it will have a positive impact on the debate on abortion."
 
Reporter:  "That’s part of the health care debate, too?" 
 
Sen. Casey:  "Yes. Obviously with an amendment like that it has to be relevant to health care, and I think it’s directly relevant.  It’s just some women in America who are walking that road all along, and we all say we care about them, and both Democrats and Republicans have not done enough to help them."