“All of us are joined in our conviction that abortion is a bad thing,” said Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Robert P. Casey, Sr., in March 1993. “And although many of us are Catholics, we are also joined in the conviction that abortion is not simply a Catholic concern. It’s a catholic concern with the small c—the concern of anyone who rejects the idea of human life as a disposable commodity. The concern of anyone with eyes to see, a mind to reason, and a heart to feel.”
This was the late Casey’s great cause. He was driven not only by the inhumanity of abortion but by his party’s tragic embrace of abortion. Casey himself was prohibited from speaking against abortion at the July 1992 Democratic National Convention, blacklisted by Bill and Hillary Clinton. The governor, ultimately engaged in a fight to preserve his own life from a rare disease, never stopped lamenting how his party, which claimed to champion “the little guy,” refused to defend the most innocent and defenseless among us: the unborn child.
Casey sensed things would only get worse. His fellow Democrats were on a fast and slippery slope downward, at risk of becoming the Party of Death. The party was going off the deep end on the abortion issue. Look at Joe Biden: He was once somewhat of an abortion moderate; today, he is an abortion extremist.
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Governor Casey, who died in May 2000 at age 68, was the last great pro-life Democrat. He is the namesake of the landmark 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, which was just overturned by the Supreme Court in the Dobbs decision, along with Roe v. Wade. Casey would have been thrilled.
Curiously, one person not thrilled is Casey’s son.
In 2006, Casey’s son, Robert P. Casey, Jr., a fellow pro-life Catholic Democrat, ran for the U.S. Senate. Pennsylvanians hoped he would be like his father. They elected Casey in a landslide, giving him an overwhelming defeat over arguably the best pro-lifer in the U.S. Senate: Republican Rick Santorum.
For Pennsylvania pro-lifers, including those who are Catholic, the defeat of Santorum hurt, but at least he lost to the son of Governor Casey. Though the junior Casey clearly would not be a Santorum, he was not like his party on abortion.
Sadly, ever since, Senator Casey has lurched further and further leftward with his party. NARAL Pro-Choice America gave Casey a 72 percent rating in its most recent (2020) rating, which will jump higher given his 2022 positions. Planned Parenthood Action gave him a 75 for its 2021-2022 session. At the other end of the spectrum, the Susan B. Anthony List Pro-Life Scorecard gives Casey an “F.” (Democrat Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia gets a “B,” making him the highest-rated—and essentially lone—pro-life Democrat in the Senate.)
By the Year of Our Lord 2022, many of us wondered if the dismal Casey would even support Casey: that is, if Planned Parenthood v. Casey was ever overturned, could we count on Casey, Jr., to support Casey, Sr., in this landmark Supreme Court case? Yes, he had become a major disappointment to the pro-life movement, but surely he would support his father’s epic legal case.
Well, we recently got our answer with the Dobbs decision.
“Roe and Casey must be overruled,” stated Justice Samuel Alito in his majority opinion. “Roe was on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided, Casey perpetuated its errors…. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions.”
The late Governor Bob Casey has at long last been vindicated. Did his son celebrate? Quite the contrary.
“Today’s decision upends almost a half century of legal precedent and rips away a constitutional right that generations of women have known their entire lives,” stated Casey on June 24 in his official reaction to the Dobbs decision. “This dangerous ruling won’t end abortions in this country, but it will put women’s lives at risk. And make no mistake—this is not the end goal, it’s just the beginning. Republicans in Congress want to pass federal legislation to completely ban abortion. Our daughters and granddaughters should not grow up with fewer rights than their mothers.”
That was the response of Senator Casey. And that is the totality of it.
Contrast this to what Casey’s father said in December 1987:
I believe abortion to be the ultimate violence. I believe strongly that Roe vs. Wade was incorrectly decided as a matter of law and represents a national public policy both divisive and destructive. It has unleashed a tidal wave that has swept away the lives of millions of defenseless, innocent unborn children. In according to the woman’s right of privacy in the abortion decision both exclusivity and finality, the Supreme Court has not only disregarded the right of the unborn to life itself, but has deprived parents, spouses and the state of the right to participate in a decision in which they all have a vital interest. This interest ought to be protected, rather than denied by the law. This policy has had, and will continue to have, a profoundly destructive effect upon the fabric of American life.
Seven years later, in March 1993, speaking at the historic old Courthouse in St. Louis, site of the original Dred Scott trial, Governor Casey made this comparison: “As everyone knows, the Court can be—and has been—seriously wrong. The Court erred in the case of Dred Scott. And I believe that the Court erred in the case of Roe vs. Wade.”
Governor Casey compared abortion not only to slavery, but murder: “It’s a unique kind of killing, for the motive may not be homicidal; it may be done in ignorance of what is actually occurring…. But as an objective fact, this is what abortion is, and so mankind has always regarded it.… Only our current laws say otherwise.”
The senior Casey even compared abortion to the Holocaust: “This has been the generation of what Malcolm Muggeridge called ‘the humane holocaust.’ The loss can never be recovered. Indeed, it can’t even be calculated.”
Casey’s son vehemently disagrees. Now, in 2022, his betrayal of his father’s legacy is complete.
I would say that his response is shocking, but at this point, no one is surprised. Senator Casey’s heart for the pro-life cause has coarsened as he has radicalized with his party on cultural issues across the board. Like Joe Biden, he now drifts along with the party’s cultural-moral tide. In fact, Senator Casey’s vote a month earlier in favor of the so-called “Women’s Health Protection Act,” a crass attempt to legalize abortion up to birth and nationalize and overturn all existing state pro-life laws, was another indication that he had gone completely against his father.
We saw it coming. We see it coming among every elected Democrat at the national level. They are aided and abetted by pro-life Catholic Democrats who elect them regardless of what they do on abortion. In past columns at Crisis, I have begged those Catholic Democrats to speak up and make their voices heard, urging them to urge the Democrats they elect to moderate themselves on abortion, but they don’t do it. They validate these elected Democrats. They have done so to the point that there are no more Governor Bob Caseys left in their party, including Bob Casey’s son.
We’re seeing this in a painful way here in Pennsylvania. This was always a pro-life state. But Pennsylvania’s registered Democrats are no longer electing pro-life Democrats; they are electing abortion extremists. Our current two-term governor, Tom Wolf, is America’s first and only governor to have served as an escort at Planned Parenthood abortion clinics. The idea that Pennsylvanians would elect someone as culturally radical as Wolf to the governor’s mansion was once unthinkable. The late Governor Casey rolled over in his grave.
Those same Pennsylvania Democrats are poised to do so again, with two additional abortion extremists, Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman, running this year for the governor and Senate offices, respectively. Many Pennsylvania pro-life Catholic Democrats will vote for them. Why? Because they’re Democrats.
And as they do enormous damage to the unborn with their positions, the pro-life Democrats who put them in office will be silent. They will aid and abet them with their votes, all the way—just as they have with Bob Casey, Jr., who is now an abortion radical, so much so that he has abandoned even his father’s signature legacy.
Are there worse Catholic senators than Casey? One might point to the likes of Catholic Senators Dick Durbin, Tim Kaine, or Ed Markey. But in terms of a onetime pro-life Catholic senator who has so starkly and shockingly betrayed the pro-life position and even the defining legacy of his father, there is no worse Catholic senator than Pennsylvania’s Robert P. Casey, Jr.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images for SEIU]