Sen. Casey Won’t ‘Draw Line in Sand’ on Abortion-Funding in Health Care Bill

November 4, 2009 - 4:56 PM
Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) said he supports an amendment to the health care bill that would explicitly prohibit taxpayer-funding of abortion through the bill but that he also said he would not "draw lines in the sand" on the issue.
(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) said he supports an amendment to the health care bill that would prohibit federal funds from paying for abortions through the bill, but he also said he is not drawing any "lines in the sand” on the issue. 

Casey said he would not answer a "hypothetical" question about whether he would vote for the final version of the health care bill even if it permitted federal funding of abortion.
 
Casey, who is pro-life, spoke with CNSNews.com after his speech on Tuesday to The Jerusalem Conference on Capitol Hill, where he discussed the Middle East peace process and health care reform.
 
CNSNews.com asked Casey if he thinks it is morally right to force taxpayers to pay for any part of a health care plan that covers abortion. He said, “No, I think what we should do is have a health care plan that’s consistent with what the Hyde amendment has done over 25 years with regard to the appropriations process. That’s what we’re trying to do now.”
 

 
The Hyde amendment prohibits federal funds from going to any part of an insurance plan that covers abortion, but it applies only to the annual appropriations bills to which it is attached and it only lasts for the fiscal year that appropriations bill covers. As such, the Hyde amendment as it currently exists in federal law would not apply to the programs set up under the health care reform bill currently under consideratoin in Congress.
 
“What I will do is what I did in the committee when, if there will be amendments to the bill, if necessary, I think it will be necessary that involve making sure public dollars don’t pay for abortion, and I’ll vote for those amendments,” Casey told CNSNews.com.
 
“But I’ve tried on every issue not to draw lines in the sand about if this is in the bill or that,” he said. “I’ve done the same thing on the public option. Some people say, some people in the Democratic Party say if there’s not a public option, they won’t vote for the bill. I’m a supporter of that: the public option.”
 
“I’m also a supporter of being real tough on insurance companies but I haven’t drawn lines in the sand yet,” said Casey. “I think it’s important to keep the process moving forward.”
 
In his speech in September to a joint session of Congress, President Barack Obama said, “And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up: Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.”
 
On Aug. 21, the independent group FactCheck.org concluded: “Despite what Obama said, the House bill would allow abortions to be covered by a federal plan and by federally subsidized private plans.” 

When asked if he would vote for a bill that does not contain specific language to prohibit taxpayer-funding for abortion, Casey said,  “Look, I’m not going to answer hypotheticals right now.”
 
“We have a process that’s ongoing,” he said. “We do not have right now a Senate bill. We have two bills that are being merged together. Until we see what the language is, we won’t really know.”
 
Casey voted in favor of an amendment offered by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee that mirrored the language of the Hyde amendment and would have prohibited federal funds from paying for any part of a health insurance plan in the federally funded health insurance programs set up by the bill. 

The amendment failed, and the bill approved by the committee would permit federal funding of abortion. Despite this, Casey voted in favor of the bill in the committee.
 
Below is a transcript of the full interview with Senator Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.):
 
CNSNews.com:  “Do you think it is morally right to force taxpayers to pay for any part of a health care plan that funds abortion?”
 
Senator Casey: “No, I think what we should do is have a health care plan that’s consistent with what the Hyde amendment has done over 25 years with regard to the appropriations process. That’s what we’re trying to do now.”
 
CNSNews.com: “Well, the issue is with the subsidy. If taxpayers are paying for a health care plan that covers, any part of a health insurance plan that covers abortion. Do you think that would be morally right, the way it stands right now?”
 
Senator Casey: “What we don’t have right now is a bill in the Senate, so we’re working through that to work through the language. But we still have a long way to go on this issue, as well as some other issues with regard to health care.
 
CNSNews.com: “And in the end, would you, morally, could you vote for a health care plan that would cover -- ?”
 
Senator Casey: “What I will do is what I did in the committee when, if there will be amendments to the bill, if necessary, I think it will be necessary that involve making sure public dollars don’t pay for abortion and I’ll vote for those amendments. But I’ve tried on every issue not to draw lines in the sand about if this is in the bill or that. I’ve done the same thing on the public option. Some people say, some people in the Democratic Party say if there’s not a public option they won’t vote for the bill. I’m a supporter of that: the public option. I’m also a supporter of being real tough on insurance companies but I haven’t drawn lines in the sand yet. I think it’s important to keep the process moving forward.”
 
CNSNews.com: “If there isn’t any specifics in there that would prohibit federal dollars from going to abortion, would you support it or no?”
 
Senator Casey: “Look, I’m not going to answer hypotheticals right now. We have a process that’s ongoing. We do not have right now a Senate bill. We have two bills that are being merged together. Until we see what the language is, we won’t really know.”