The Pittsburgh Post Gazette is reporting that Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), a pro-life leader in the Senate, will likely oppose the Stupak abortion amendment. Casey’s office issued a press statement clarifying that the Senator supports preserving the status quo on abortion coverage:
Senator Casey has been a vocal supporter of health care reform and voted for the HELP Committee bill in July. He supports the public option to increase competition and reduce costs. And he is offering amendments to improve health care for children. Senator Casey thinks that health care reform should not be used to change longstanding policies regarding federal financing of abortion which has been in place since 1976.
He continues to work with his colleagues in the Senate and with the White House to ensure that the Senate health care reform bill protects existing federal and state conscience protections, existing state abortion laws and contains strong language to prohibit federal funds from being used to fund abortions. He voted for amendments in the HELP Committee that would maintain neutrality on abortion. Until Senate bill language is released it is premature to discuss next steps.
The existing abortion language in the Senate bill maintains the status quo by ensuring that federal dollars can only be used to pay for abortions when the pregnancy threatens life of mother or results from rape or incest. Only private premiums could be used to pay for so-called ‘elective’ abortions.
Democrats believe that pro-life advocates would not be able to muster the requisite 60 votes to pass a more restrictive amendment that would make it difficult for many private plans to provide abortion coverage. “If someone wants to offer this very radical amendment, which would really tear apart [a decades-long] compromise, then I think at that point they would need to have 60 votes to do it,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said during a recent interview with the Huffington Post. “And I believe in our Senate we can hold it.” On Monday, President Obama also indicated that he wanted to preserve the status quo on abortion coverage.
Casey’s statement, while promising, does not guarantee that the Senator won’t vote for a bill that includes stricter abortion restrictions. During the Health, Labor, Education and Pensions Committee’s (HELP)’s mark-up, Casey provided the only Democratic vote to at least four anti-choice amendments, all of which ultimately failed. One such amendment — offered by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) — closely resembled the Stupak provision.
If the Senate bill retains its current abortion compromise, it’s likely that the conference report will include similar language. Already, 41 House Democrats have sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), vowing to vote against the final conference report if it contains the Stupak amendment.