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Bob Casey versus the Rights of Women

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Originally published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on March 18, 2012


It seems a lifetime ago that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut that a state law prohibiting the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy. Eight years later, the constitutional principles underlying that decision were pivotal to the court's ruling in Roe v. Wade, which recognized that the right to have an abortion was a protected, private decision, with some exceptions.

Recently, the battle moved to the U.S. Senate, where the "Respect for Rights of Conscience Act," proposed by Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.) as an amendment to a transportation bill, sought to allow any employer to opt out of abortion and contraceptive coverage -- and any other health treatment, including prenatal care, childhood vaccinations, cancer screenings, and mammograms -- based solely on the undefined determination of the employer's religious and moral beliefs. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) rightfully denounced the bill as "an extreme, ideological amendment."

Fortunately, the Blunt Amendment was narrowly defeated, 51-48. Olympia Snowe of Maine was the only Republican to vote "nay." The bill has been cited as one of Snowe's principal reasons for her recent surprising decision to retire from the Senate. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) confessed to the Anchorage Daily News, "I have never had a vote I've taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me." She unhesitatingly said "no" when asked if she would vote the same way again.

Apparently the qualms expressed by Murkowski and Snowe are not shared by the senior senator from Pennsylvania, Democrat Bob Casey Jr., who joined only two other Democratic senators, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, in voting for the Blunt amendment. Casey insisted that the alternative position supported by other Democrats did not go far enough to protect the constitutional liberties of religious institutions and employers -- despite recent concessions by the Obama administration. Casey's vote was reminiscent of many of his earlier positions, most notably his vote against federal funding of stem-cell research in 2007 (supported by 63 senators, including 17 Republicans). Nelson was the only other Democrat who voted with Casey then. That bill, vetoed by President George W. Bush, became law when President Obama enacted it via an executive order.

Women should not need a permission slip from the government or employers to address their reproductive health needs, and it is becoming increasingly clear that the women of Pennsylvania cannot trust Casey to protect their health and defend their rights. The senator had an opportunity to stand by the dignity and well-being of women on the Blunt amendment, but chose instead to stand with Republicans and the likes of Rush Limbaugh. Casey's vote made it clear that he supports the religious and moral beliefs of employers above comparable rights and beliefs of women. No explanation can mitigate this fundamental fact. Ironically, ensuring women's access to contraception would reduce the number of abortions, something the anti-abortion Casey should support.

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It is time to hold Casey accountable. During his 2006 Senate campaign, Casey gave verbal assurances to women's rights organizations that his abortion position would not translate into opposition to women's health measures or support for the Catholic Church's position on contraception. And Democratic leaders supporting Casey said that women's rights would not be compromised by Casey's votes for Supreme Court nominees. That, too, proved false.

For Casey, a commitment to women's health and rights is nothing but political rhetoric, as his broken promises prove. It is time for Pennsylvanians to ask whether we can, in good conscience, vote for him in November.

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Kate Michelman is one of the most respected and influential women leaders in America today.

For nearly 20 years, she served as President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, catapulting the organization to prominence as the nation's premier (more...)
 

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"Casey insisted that the alternative position supp... by Natalie Oberman on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 2:02:16 AM
That's right Natalie. We USE you to flush out the ... by Rob Kall on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 8:55:57 AM
Natalie, if that is her real name has a great fram... by Mark Sashine on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 9:13:25 AM
Couldn't agree more... heh heh!  She spews fo... by AAA AAA on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 12:02:54 PM
If I didn't know better, I would swear you were mi... by TNProgressive on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012 at 1:12:26 AM
And I am just the guy to do it. Your use of the pr... by James Hadstate on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 9:34:07 AM
They made it illegal for a teacher to even bring a... by Ginger McClemons on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 12:07:05 PM
... you work for the government... the same govern... by AAA AAA on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 12:28:40 PM
No one is suggesting that these "bible toting teac... by Ginger McClemons on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 5:38:19 PM
Ginger,If you are an adult that cannot leave your ... by Amanda Lang on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012 at 9:18:54 AM
"..... the 1st Amendment only applies to GOVERNMEN... by Natalie Oberman on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 7:35:12 PM
If the taxpayers fund the schools, those schools m... by Mary Pitt on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 8:35:29 PM
"If the taxpayers fund the schools, those schools ... by Natalie Oberman on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012 at 12:55:36 AM
I barely believe that you hold the convictions you... by TNProgressive on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012 at 1:26:06 AM
Let's try this again.  I brought up the relat... by Natalie Oberman on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012 at 12:14:14 PM
You are really mixed up Natalie.  All organiz... by AAA AAA on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012 at 2:42:31 PM
It's really too bad you can't simply argue and dis... by Natalie Oberman on Thursday, Mar 22, 2012 at 11:50:24 AM
My reading of the 1st amendment:  T he freedo... by Amanda Lang on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012 at 9:12:15 AM
Great article. You've put into words what I was th... by Rob Kall on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 8:51:10 AM
Casey was recruited to run for this Senate seat by... by Jerry Policoff on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 9:31:41 AM
Dear Kate,Surely you must have known the dems aske... by Sheila Parks on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 11:42:46 AM
I did not know Kate in 2006 though we have since b... by Jerry Policoff on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 11:55:17 AM
or break their promises to the public, they should... by Ginger McClemons on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 11:56:36 AM
This is a great idea! Legally enforced pitchforkin... by Kathleen O'Grady on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 4:12:46 PM
Been there, done that, got the tee shirt, BURNED I... by Ginger McClemons on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 12:15:56 PM
h to live on would probably solve most women's pro... by Jill Herendeen on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012 at 11:54:38 AM
to join my party: PIGS. (People who Ignore all Gov... by molly cruz on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 12:49:02 PM
*MEN* are the group that never did have the right ... by echo foxtrot on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 12:54:07 PM
I forgot to mention that both Serpico and Dr. Phil... by echo foxtrot on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 1:02:01 PM
Dude,Serpico and Philips would not have had any pr... by Amanda Lang on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012 at 9:44:43 AM
because it is being trolled!  Ms. Michelman i... by Mary Pitt on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 1:25:54 PM
...which is that liberals just can't, or won't, ge... by echo foxtrot on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 1:37:50 PM
I am not a "liberal".  I am a homeless Republ... by Mary Pitt on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 2:44:08 PM
 I can't write anything, I'm laughing too har... by Ginger McClemons on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 5:27:42 PM
You blow (so to speak) your own credibility here, ... by TNProgressive on Thursday, Mar 22, 2012 at 2:46:59 AM
Kate Michelman's excellent essay is a must read.... by Jerry Policoff on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 4:11:58 PM
Those "democrats" in the Senate (as in the House) ... by Walter J Smith on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012 at 12:08:54 AM
Harsh words, but probably true.   ... by Cynthia Pierson on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012 at 2:42:06 AM
Just stay home and don't vote at all!  That's... by Mary Pitt on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012 at 12:28:41 PM
Better words were never spoken.  I just ... by AAA AAA on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012 at 3:08:01 PM
some day having a conversation with you about all ... by Mary Pitt on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012 at 3:25:30 PM
In Vietnam, Eisenhower sent 'advisors,' Kennedy se... by AAA AAA on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012 at 11:34:45 PM
to remediate your knowledge of history but I must ... by Mary Pitt on Thursday, Mar 22, 2012 at 8:49:16 AM
Ha!! I don't need you to remediate anything. Is th... by AAA AAA on Thursday, Mar 22, 2012 at 1:57:37 PM
Dear Rob:  I beg to disagree.  I ne... by AAA AAA on Thursday, Mar 22, 2012 at 2:41:34 PM
Although you are correct on the history, you do at... by John Reed on Sunday, Mar 25, 2012 at 5:14:46 AM
to your war critique and both were accurate. ... by Mary Pitt on Thursday, Mar 22, 2012 at 3:49:45 PM