Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., Opposes Freedom of Choice Act, But Won't Say If He'd Support Filibuster
January 16, 2009 - 9:12 PMSen. Bob Casey, Jr., told CNSNews.com last week that he opposes the Freedom of Choice Act, but he would not say whether he would support a filibuster of it.
Casey said he does not support the Freedom of Choice Act (S.1173), which would lift virtually all restrictions on abortion nationwide, and which President-elect Barack Obama promised Planned Parenthood he would sign into law.
But Casey said he would not guess at what steps would be taken in response to the legislation if it is introduced, which he also said is not certain.
“I don’t know what the approach would be, but I don’t support that legislation,” Casey told CNSNews.com on a conference call Friday about helping women in crisis pregnancies.
“So, I mean, obviously when you don’t support legislation, then your opposition can take a variety of forms. But I am on the record as not supporting the legislation. How that plays out, we don’t know yet, and I’m not sure that’s going to be introduced, but we’ll see,” he said.
When asked by CNSNews.com if he would support a filibuster if the bill is introduced and some senators try to stop it, Casey declined to answer.
“I really don’t know,” he said, “and I don’t want to guess at steps that might be taken, because that’s kind of a hypothetical within a hypothetical. But I’m crystal clear on my position of not supporting that legislation.”
“I wouldn’t read too much into that, so far as what Casey will do,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee.
There are senators who have policies about speaking in advance on their vote, said Johnson. “It’s not necessarily an omen or an indicator that they’re ambivalent about the matter,” he added.
Johnson said that rumors of passing the Freedom of Choice Act have surfaced before, especially in 1993 when newly elected President Clinton stated his support for FOCA.
The FOCA would overturn all state laws concerning abortion, including parental notification laws, partial-birth abortion bans, state waiting periods, and bans on state funding of abortions. This would amount to hundreds of laws today, Johnson told CNSNews.com
“If it comes to a fight in the Senate, not every senator who supports Roe v. Wade is going to support this bill,” Johnson said, “because there are a number of them who support Roe, regrettably, but they also support parental notification, or they support the partial-birth abortion ban.”
The Supreme Court in the past has upheld Roe v. Wade but also upheld some state regulations on abortions, specifically in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. (The Casey in that ruling was the late Gov. Bob Casey Sr., father of current Sen. Bob Casey, and the former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania from 1987 to 1995. While upholding the ruling of Roe v. Wade that there is a "right" to abortion, the court concluded that most of Pennsylvania’s restrictions on abortion were constitutional.)
“Just to speak in general terms, any pro-life senator is going to do anything possible in the end to stop this bill from going to the president’s desk,” said Johnson.
The National Right to Life Committee disagrees with Casey on certain pro-life issues, said Johnson, but the senator has also voted a pro-life position at other times and considers himself pro-life. “FOCA is not anywhere in a gray area, or near the line,” Johnson said. “It’s at the furthest extreme.
“It doesn’t cause me too much concern,” he concluded, “particularly at this early date.”
The senator spoke Friday in a teleconference concerning the proposed “Pregnant Women Support Act,” which would allow for further support for pregnant women and would aim at reducing the number of abortions in the United States.
“Quite frankly, I’m not worried about the Freedom of Choice Act coming up or being voted on,” Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life and a member of the teleconference panel, told CNSNews.com.
“I know that a lot of organizations have really been promoting it, but I’m really focused on what we can do. And what we can do is pass a bill [the Pregnant Women Support Act] that provides more support for pregnant women,” she added.
CNSNews.com asked Day if she knew how many votes there would be to support a filibuster of FOCA if it is introduced in the Senate.
“I find it really unlikely that the Freedom of Choice Act would come up,” Day said. “It hasn’t even been reintroduced yet. So it’s not something that I’m concerned about right now.
“I mean, when, if it does [come up], definitely, we’ll look more closely at that, but right now, we know what we can do is pass this bill,” she said.
Day repeated that Democrats for Life was opposed to the FOCA. “Obviously, we’re opposed to it, very much opposed to it,” she told CNSNews.com.