The Corner

The Casey Standard

Robert P. Casey, the deceased former governor of Pennsylvania, spent his political career defending the principle that every human life is of infinite value. It cost him politically within his own party; but for Casey, politics was a calling to a higher cause — fidelity to the founding principles of the Declaration of Independence. In a 1995 speech at Notre Dame, he said this:

You know, for eight years, I served as governor of Pennsylvania. All the problems that America confronts today, health care, the level of taxation, education, economic growth, crime, welfare, the environment — you name it, a state like Pennsylvania — we see it all. All these things are important, they’re very important. They concern the day to day business of government. They were my life for eight years. But, in the end, they are relative problems. And they demand relative solutions. They are about how we shall live as a people in America. Of course the economy is of urgent concern to everyone, and properly so — the issue of how we make our livelihood, how we pay our bills, how we invest for our future. But the need to protect the unborn child is just as urgent as the economic concerns that confront our country.

In the case of the unborn child we’re dealing not just with our livelihoods, but with lives . . . not just how comfortably we will live, but how comfortably we will live with our consciences. Think about it, why do all parties to this debate routinely call abortion a “social issue”? Because deep down we know that the fate of one life touches us all. In a way, all the talk about values misses the point. Because we are talking about a thing of infinite value. Human life cannot be measured. It is the measure itself. The value of everything else is weighed against it. The abortion debate is not about how we shall live, but who shall live. And more than that, it’s about who we are.

Now the governor’s son and namesake, the current junior senator from Pennsylvania, will be tested by the standard his father set. If he votes for cloture on the motion to proceed on the health-care bill, he will be making possible the greatest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade, and mandating that all citizens participate through federal funding. Senate majority leader Harry Reid needs all 60 Democratic senators to bring the legislation to the floor and make it the order of business. So Senator Casey has the fate of the bill completely in his power. If he adds his vote, that will mean that any effort to add the pro-life Stupak language from the House bill will require 60 pro-life votes, which, as Senator Casey knows, are not there. Casey’s original vote to proceed will have stacked the deck against defending life.

Everyone will be watching how the senator votes — including, perhaps most poignantly, the man who said of abortion, “it’s about who we are.”

– Frank Cannon is a principal of Capital City Partners, a Washington consulting firm.