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Sen. Bob Casey, anti-abortion Democrat, backs bill to codify abortion rights

Despite Casey’s support, the legislation lacks the 60 votes needed to defeat a Senate filibuster.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., introduces Dr. Amy Gutmann, nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Germany, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Dec. 14, 2021.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., at a Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Dec. 14.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., came out Tuesday for a sweeping bill to codify abortion rights protections nationwide, marking a shift from his prior resistance to it.

“This week, I will again vote yes to advance debate on the Women’s Health Protection Act and I will support the bill if there is a vote on final passage in the future," he said in a statement.

Casey has long held anti-abortion views, with a complicated stance on the government’s role in the issue. He’s the son of Bob Casey Sr., a former governor of Pennsylvania who opposed legal abortion and defended his state’s restrictions in the landmark Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The younger Casey had been one of just two Senate Democrats, along with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, not to sponsor the legislation.

As recently as February, Casey was not a supporter of the bill. But in a statement Tuesday, he said that "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?" he said. "During my time in public office, I have never voted for — nor do I support — such a ban.”

The Senate is expected to take up the bill on Wednesday, but even with Casey's support, it lacks the 60 votes needed to defeat a Senate filibuster due to opposition from Republicans. Even if it were to receive a final vote, it would require the support of Manchin or at least one Republican to pass.

“I ask my colleagues to think carefully about their vote, to grapple with the impact of a world without Roe, because all of us will have to answer for this vote for the rest of our time in public office,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday.