Not many Pennsylvanians today remember (or ever knew) that former Pennsylvania governor Robert P. Casey was a walking medical miracle. He was the recipient — while in office — of an incredible heart-liver transplant, necessitated by a rare disease that previously had taken the life of Pittsburgh mayor Richard Caliguiri.
The governor’s surgery was performed at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center by transplant pioneer Thomas Starzl. Casey knew the odds. In fact, at the time, he was only the seventh person in the country to undergo the procedure — and most of the others did not survive more than a month.
Surviving and living well past that historic surgery further stiffened his resolve to fight on behalf of others — the poor, the downtrodden, and the unborn. And fight he did, detailed in his 1996 autobiography “Fighting for Life.”
It was in October of that year that Pennsylvania Family Institute presented Casey with our “Power of One” award for his steadfast pro-life leadership — including signing the Abortion Control Act of 1989 (his administration defended it in court), establishing the nation’s first state-funded alternatives to abortion and challenging the national Democratic Party for its growing embrace of abortion-on-demand.
His acceptance speech has reverberated in my mind many times since.
“Roe v. Wade is a bone that is stuck in America’s throat. It just won’t go down. It’s like an organ that was transplanted that the body rejected,” said the esteemed former governor.
This was not just political rhetoric; the usual platitudes from someone just handed an award. He meant it from the deepest part of his being. He loved America and understood just how fundamentally abortion-on-demand undermines who we are as a people and nation. He continued:
“Our message is very simple. We say, America, we have read the Declaration of Independence. America, we take you at your word. America, be whom you claim to be. That’s all we ask. And if you are who you claim to be, you will protect all life, particularly, the most innocent, helpless, defenseless member of the human family, which is of course, the unborn child.”
Fast forward to today. That “bone in America’s throat” is as close as ever to finally being removed as the U.S. Supreme Court deliberates the Dobbs abortion case and considers overturning Roe v. Wade.
But in steps Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., eldest son of the late governor and Pennsylvania’s senior U.S. senator, with a vote last week that one can only conclude would make his father cry.
Casey, Jr., was elected to public office on the strength of his father’s name and reputation, and the young Casey spoke of having pro-life convictions like his dad.
Indeed, he was purposely (and I would add callously) recruited by national Democrats to run for the U.S. Senate in 2006 as a “pro-life” Democrat to try and neutralize the strong pro-life record and support of incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum. Many pro-life voters believed it. The record shows they were wrong to do so.
Over the years, Sen. Casey has achieved ratings as high as 100% from the pro-abortion group NARAL, and he regularly supported taxpayer funding for abortion giant Planned Parenthood.
He voted against an amendment to prohibit research on aborted babies (like the horrifying research at the University of Pittsburgh), and he voted to remove the Hyde Amendment and other longstanding prohibitions against direct taxpayer funding of abortion.
Roe v. Wade is a bone that is stuck in America’s throat. It just won’t go down.
But last week’s vote takes the cake, especially considering his father’s legacy. Anticipating a possible overturn of Roe, Democrat leaders in the Senate, with backing from the Biden administration, put forth the absurdly named “Women’s Health Protection Act.”
This bill, which Sen. Casey and every other Senate Democrat voted for, save one (Joe Manchin of West Virginia), would have legalized abortion on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy and repealed nearly every pro-life law passed by the states, including Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act, signed into law in 1989 by his father.
No wonder Casey, Jr., received an “F” grade from the powerful pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List.
I’m not sure what happened to Sen. Casey, but the purging of pro-lifers from the Democratic Party that Gov. Casey decried in 1992 (and got him ousted from the Democratic National Convention) has so accelerated that pro-life Democrats in Congress (or at any level) are now scarcer than a heart-liver transplant survivor was in 1993.
While I don’t know the mind or heart of Sen. Casey and why he does what he does, I can conclude one of three things: either his pro-life convictions were never real, they were the result of party pressure against pro-lifers, or they were swept away by the lure of power and prestige.
Either way, as someone who knew both men, I believe the real Bob Casey — Gov. Casey — would be devastated.
Michael Geer serves as the President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Family Institute.