Today, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), who has long been anti-abortion, issued a surprising statement on Tuesday saying he would vote for the Women’s Health Protection Act, the bill that would codify Roe v. Wade into federal law and strike down medically unnecessary state restrictions like mandatory waiting periods and ultrasounds. This means Democrats have 49 votes in favor of WHPA, leaving Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) as the only Democratic Senator who opposes it. The House passed WHPA in September. (Texas Rep. and terrible person Henry Cuellar was the only Democrat to vote no.)
Casey stopped short of saying he would vote to end the filibuster, the 60-vote threshold needed to pass legislation with a simply majority. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will hold a vote on WHPA on Wednesday, and it can’t pass without Democrats nuking the filibuster. Jezebel contacted Casey’s office for comment and a spokesperson said “Senator Casey has spoken out in support of reforming the filibuster since early 2021, particularly to pass voting rights legislation.” That still leaves filibuster-lovers Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona).
Casey said in a statement: “The circumstances around the entire debate on abortion have changed. 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.”
The day after the leaked opinion dropped, Casey said in a statement: “If this draft opinion becomes the final opinion of the Court, I have serious concerns about what overturning almost 50 years of legal precedent will mean for women in states passing near or total bans on abortion.”
Casey’s father was a former governor of Pennsylvania and the defendant in the 1992 Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Bob Casey Sr. signed several abortion restrictions into law and the case reaffirmed the core holding of Roe but allowed states to enact measures like the aforementioned waiting periods and ultrasound requirements.
In a 2019 interview with The Morning Call following a rash of states passing six-week abortion bans, Casey said he opposed all of the following: the Roe decision itself, near-total abortion bans that states like Alabama had passed that year, and the conservative effort to get the Supreme Court to overturn Roe.
“I’ve had trouble with both sides (of the abortion debate). Over time, I’ve voted for restrictions. But I just don’t believe litigating this in the Senate or in a legislature right now is ...” Casey said, trailing off.
Update 5/10/22: This post has been update to include comment from a Casey spokesperson on his stance on the filibuster.