NARAL Targets Pro-Life Democrat for Defeat

By Christine Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

( - Pennsylvania pro-life Democrat and gubernatorial candidate Bob Casey, Jr., is taking a drubbing from a national abortion rights group.

The National Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League launched a new television ad campaign to tell voters that "Bob Casey wants to ban abortion," and that Casey's Democratic primary opponent Ed Rendell, by contrast, supports abortion rights.

Casey's father, the late Democratic Gov. Bob Casey, was denied an opportunity to address the 1992 national Democratic convention due to his pro-life stance on abortion.

The two gubernatorial candidates are in a tight race for the nomination, with Rendell, a popular former Philadelphia mayor, leading Casey, the state auditor, 45 to 40 percent, according to an April Mason-Dixon poll. Casey has the endorsement of the state Democratic Party, which he heads, as well as the major labor unions.

"The public record of these two men presents starkly different positions on choice," said NARAL President Kate Michelman. NARAL is spending approximately $170,000 to run the initial ad on select cable TV channels in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh through the May 21 primary.

"A woman's right to choose is a fundamental freedom," a female voice states in the NARAL ad. "Ed Rendell trusts Pennsylvania's women. He's pro-choice and opposes any attempt to criminalize abortions.

"But some politicians want to take away our right to choose," the ad continues. Bob Casey "would sign a law banning abortions. Casey even opposes abortion for victims of rape and incest."

Karen Walsh, spokesperson for the Casey campaign, suggested the NARAL ad ignores political reality.

"If heaven and earth move and the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, and it is sent back to the states, if the General Assembly of Pennsylvania passes an abortion ban [that] contains exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, a Gov. Casey would sign that bill," said Walsh. But without such a court ruling, she said, there is not much Casey could do on the abortion issue as governor.

More importantly, said Walsh, Democratic women will not be swayed by one issue.

"Ed Rendell has no record on issues that are important to Pennsylvania women ... like improving education or improving the safety and quality of childcare or improving long term care options for Pennsylvania families," said Walsh.

The candidates have begun running their own campaign ads. The Philadelphia Inquirer has described Casey's ads as "slash-and-trash and little else." Casey's ads are critical of Rendell for the condition of Philadelphia's economy and schools.

The state recently took control of the failing Philadelphia school system.

Another Casey commercial, running in Pittsburgh, features a Philadelphia cop saying Rendell shouldn't be governor "because he lies."

"Cops deal with liars all the time, and we have no respect for anybody that lies," charges the police officer in the ad.

Rendell blames Philadelphia's education woes on the state government, for failing to give the city's school system enough tax dollars. Rendell also accused Casey in one commercial of "lying" about Rendell's record.

The former mayor, who is 57, has taken the offensive on another issue, criticizing his younger opponent - Casey is 41 - for lacking "the experience to take over a government now." Casey has held the state auditor's post for over five years but had not previously held elective office.

Republican Attorney General Mike Fisher, who is 56, with no primary opponent, is the de facto Republican nominee. Acting Republican Gov. Mark Schweiker, who took over when Tom Ridge resigned the post to become President Bush's director of homeland security, decided not to run.

Republican governors presently outnumber Democrats, 27 to 21. There are two Independents.

E-mail a news tip to Christine Hall.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.