.- Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., a pro-life Democrat, spoke to a town hall meeting sponsored by Democrats for Life in Denver on Wednesday. Praising Sen. Barack Obama for reaching out to those in disagreement with aspects of the Democratic Party platform, Casey outlined his own plan to support pregnant women “in crisis,” a plan he believes would reduce the number of abortions.
In his short Tuesday speech on the floor of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), a speech much anticipated by pro-life Democrats, Casey dedicated two sentences to abortion.
“Barack Obama and I have an honest disagreement on the issue of abortion,” he said. “But the fact that I’m speaking here tonight is testament to Barack’s ability to show respect for the views of people who may disagree with him.”
On Wednesday at the Hotel Monaco in Denver, Casey described his speech as “a demonstration of what Sen. Obama is trying to do in his campaign: to reach out to people who might disagree on one issue, or on more than one issue.”
Arguing that Obama had shown “leadership,” he claimed the Obama-Biden ticket would “try to bring people together even on the difficult issue of abortion” and work toward common ground.
Casey said all legislators could come together on a central priority which is “very hard for both the left and the right to just push aside and say ‘You know what, I’m not really interested.’”
That priority, he said, is pregnant women.
Many pregnant women who face pregnancy, regardless of income and circumstances, for whatever reason are “in crisis,” Casey said. He argued that government and society should show solidarity with such women through government assistance.
“We’re not doing that now,” he said. “In my judgment, neither party is doing enough on this issue.”
Mentioning the Pregnant Women Support Act, of which he is a sponsor, Casey said bills that support pregnant women must be written to appeal to the left, the right, and the center of the political spectrum.
“We have to do everything we can, as a society and as a government, to reach out and help pregnant women,” he thought every side could agree.
Since current law grants the right of women to have abortions, Casey argued, “We ought to make sure that she also has the option to carry that child to term.”
“We’ve got to help her, okay? This isn’t her problem, it’s our problem.”
Listing policies aimed to reduce abortion, Casey proposed more assistance for college women who become pregnant; counseling for parents facing an unborn child’s diagnosis of Down’s syndrome; and increasing money for both childcare and women and children’s nutrition programs.
He also advocated providing more support for pregnant women who are victims of abuse.
“Sometimes they are victims of abuse because they are pregnant,” he emphasized. “We’ve got to help that woman who is the subject of abuse.”
“If you’re not helping her, if you’re not trying to help her, you’re not pro-life,” Casey charged.
He further endorsed nurse home visitation programs to help new parents address their “uncertainty” surrounding the basics of being a parent.
Pregnant women, he explained, should have the option “to have a nurse or healthcare practitioner of some level of expertise assigned to her, someone to give her health care advice, someone who can counsel her, someone who can visit her at home for as long as is possible.”
Governmental programs should be provided to pregnant women so that “if they choose to bear that child, they’re going to get all the help they need. All the help they need.”
Fiscal concerns were surmountable obstacles, Casey asserted.
“If we believe what we say, we can come up with the money.”
If the Bush administration can secure money for a $51 billion tax cut, he argued, “more than enough money” can be found to “help pregnant women face a crisis.”
During a brief question and answer period, CNA asked Casey and other Democrat legislators at the town hall about Senator Obama’s support for the Freedom of Choice Act, which would remove almost all restrictions on abortion. CNA asked whether the speakers had talked to Obama about the bill and whether they personally supported it.
“No, I haven’t spoken with him about it,” Casey answered, “but I don’t agree with it. I don’t support it.”
“But I think that there are ways, even when we disagree on that particular legislation as it pertains to abortion, that we can still come together,” he continued.
E.J. Dionne, a columnist for the Washington Post, asked whether the mood at the 2008 DNC was different from past years.
“I do think the mood is different,” Casey responded.
Concerning the party platform, he said platforms are an “interesting process” but noted “I don’t spend a lot of time, when we’re out there campaigning, saying ‘Well, I say this, it doesn’t agree with the platform.’”
“I would say that the abortion part of the platform wasn’t good enough for me,” he continued. He claimed there was language in the platform which was similar to the goals of the Pregnant Women Support Act, calling the platform language “tremendous progress, and a very good thing to have in there, and a very positive sign.”
However, he said he was hoping “there would be some reference to differences of opinion,” which he said was found in an earlier version.
One questioner brought up Sen. Obama’s pro-abortion remark about not wanting his daughters “punished with a baby,” asking the town hall speakers to comment.
Senator Casey answered that he was present when the remark was made, and said when Obama made his comments “I knew that response would be pulled out and seen over and over.”
“I think it was poorly articulated, I think it didn’t reflect what he was trying to convey,” he stated.
Casey said he thought Obama was trying to say that “sometimes pregnancy is a crisis. And for some women it is a crisis. For some it’s not, but for some women it is a crisis. That’s a real challenge in their life.”
He said it was “unfortunate” the statement was being depicted as a reflection of Obama’s policy or belief, but “that’s what politics is all about.”
“I don’t think it reflects what he thinks about children or what he thinks about the birth of a child,” Casey explained.
“I can say that because I know him. I know this guy pretty well.”