I've been saying for some time that the race for United States Senate in Pennsylvania this year is what I wish for the entire country: two strong candidates with very different views, both of whom are pro-life. The incumbent, U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R), a Roman Catholic, has fought valiantly for pro-life legislation, including the ban on partial birth abortion, doing so with a clear and holistic ethic of life. Santorum and his wife homeschool their six children, and both have written and spoken extensively on this issue.
His challenger, state treasurer Bob Casey Jr. (D), also a Roman Catholic, likewise has maintained his commitment to protect the unborn, following in the convictional pro-life heritage of his heroic father, the late Governor Robert Casey, a New Deal Democrat who wasn't allowed to speak to the 1992 Democratic National Convention because he defied party orthodoxy on abortion rights. Casey the elder never wavered on this, despite humiliation at the DNC and beyond, refusing even to endorse his party's nominee Bill Clinton. Casey Sr. was an honored guest at my denomination's Christian Life Commission in 1997, meeting on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he urged Christians to maintain a consistent witness for the sanctity of life, a fight he waged all the way until his death. Remember that the landmark Planned Parenthood vs. Casey Supreme Court decision is named because of the governor's commitment to restrict abortion and protect women and children. Despite the criticisms of the abortion rights lobby (including a threatened third-party run by NARAL's Kate Michelman), the younger Casey stood firm that he would continue his Party's commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in society, including in that list unborn babies.
After watching today's debate between the two on NBC television's "Meet the Press" broadcast, I am saddened and cynical. When asked about the Food and Drug Administration decision to allow the "Plan B" or "morning after" or "emergency contraception" pill without a prescription, Bob Casey argued that this decision was just and that he would vote to uphold it. This technology is designed to work in such a way that, if a baby has been conceived, would prevent the child from implanting in the womb. Despite the fact that he maintained that he believes life begins at conception, Casey praised the "Plan B" pill as "contraception," and contraception that should be available even without a prescription.
I don't have a dog in the Senate fight in Pennsylvania. I am certainly no Republican partisan, having served as a pro-life, pro-family Democrat and longing for more of them so that we can have a genuine two-party system in this country. My response to the debate is not "score one for Santorum." I hope Bob Casey is simply confused, and will right the course on this tomorrow. But, for now, it is just sad.
It is not unusual to see a politican skirt around the sanctity of human life for a few votes and the esteem of the chattering classes. Republicans do this just as Democrats do (see the embryonic stem cell research bill of a while back). It's just depressing to see it from someone named "Bob Casey."