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As Pa. considers anti-abortion bill, Casey's pro-life credentials come under scrutiny

With Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly rejecting second-trimester abortions, one would think the senator would take seriously the views of those whose votes he seeks for reelection.

Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) on Capitol Hill in April.
Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) on Capitol Hill in April.Read moreAlex Brandon / Associated Press

Laws protecting children from abortion in the later stages of pregnancy continue to advance in various states. Two distinct but similar measures are gaining ground. One protects the lives of babies in the womb who can feel pain; the other protects babies in the womb from dismemberment procedures. These measures enjoy the support of the majority of our fellow citizens, even those who consider themselves "pro-choice."

Pennsylvania is presenting a bill that merges the two concepts. The bill, SB3/HB77, addresses both pain-capable and dismemberment legislation.

Senate Bill 3 would make it illegal to cause "the death of an unborn child by means of dismembering the unborn child and extracting the unborn child one piece at a time from the uterus through the use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors or similar instruments." It would also push back the legal limit of abortion from 24 weeks to 20 weeks, which is what pain-capable ban bills in other states seek to do.

During abortions at 20 weeks and beyond, when the evidence of fetal pain is widely acknowledged, an abortionist will most commonly do a dilation and evacuation or (D&E) dismemberment abortion. This is literally the act of blindly grasping limbs with tools through the cervix and tearing the child piece by piece to fit through the cervix for disposal. It is truly as gruesome and disgusting as it sounds. The more people become aware of this, the more they reject it.

In fact, Maria Gallagher, legislative director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, said that a recent poll found strong support for the measure among Pennsylvanians, with 61 percent supporting a ban on dismemberment abortions. One has to wonder what is the matter with the other 39 percent. We're talking about the dismemberment of a living baby, for goodness sake!

A majority of women in Pennsylvania want to see dismemberment abortion ended. According to, "While both women and men approved of the ban, the level of support was actually higher among women — 64 percent of Pennsylvania women want to see an end to brutal dismemberment abortions in the commonwealth."

Planned Parenthood is worried. And in typical fashion, the organization continues to blatantly lie or convolute the truth to the detriment of women. On its website the mega-abortion provider claimed, "These bills propose the most extreme restrictions on abortion in the country. SB3 and HB77 would ban abortions after 20 weeks except in the rarest of circumstances, leaving no exceptions for rape, incest, health, or tragic fetal anomalies. It would also ban one of the safest methods of second-trimester abortions, putting women at risk and taking crucial decisions about their medical care out of the hands of their trusted medical providers."

There is nothing safe about this type of abortion. In fact, State Sen. Michele Brooks (R., Crawford) argues in her memorandum to her colleagues: "This legislation also helps protect the health and well-being of a pregnant female. Although death rarely results, after the first trimester, a woman's risk of death as a result of complications from the procedure increases dramatically. A woman is 35 times more likely to die at 20 weeks and 91 times more likely after 21 weeks, than if the procedure was performed in the first trimester. Additionally, the risk of death increases exponentially by 38 percent for each additional week of gestation."

So where is this bill today and will it have any affect on next year's U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania? It passed in the state Senate and is in the reconciliation process, but Gov. Wolf has promised to veto it. As for the 2018 Senate election, it would be interesting — and important — to know just where U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) stands on this issue. His job is to represent the people of his state, and most of them want to protect children in the womb from painful dismemberment. There is no room for any grey area as we get so close to bringing these bills to the federal level.

Casey has said before that he is not his father, the governor who was barred by his own party from speaking at the 1992 Democratic National Convention because of his pro-life views.  However, Casey Jr. did vote to advance the federal Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in 2015.

You would think, by his rhetoric, that Casey Jr. was all in for the pro-life cause. He has the lingo down, but actions speak louder than words. Planned Parenthood Action Fund rates his voting record over the last six years at 74 percent while National Right to Life rates his lifetime voting record at only 32 percent. Whose interests is he representing exactly?

With Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly rejecting second-trimester abortions, one would think Casey would take seriously the views of those whose votes he seeks. He can't say he opposes late abortions while simultaneously sending tax money to the largest business that sells those abortions.

With issues as serious as stopping the painful dismemberment of children, Pennsylvanians need a senator who is clear, unequivocal, and consistent in defense of these children.

The Rev. Frank Pavone is national director of Priests for Life.