Remembering Robert Casey

First Things, August 2000.

On the morning of his Commonwealth’s 1992 presidential primary, I got a telephone call from Pennsylvania Governor Robert P. Casey, a man whose pro“life record I knew and admired, but whom I had never met. A mutual friend had given him a copy of a talk I had presented to the Catholic bishops criticizing the proposition that one can legitimately be “personally opposed” to abortion while supporting its legal permission and even public funding.

The Governor, intending a compliment (I think), was calling to say that I had demonstrated rigorously what was, to him, hardly in need of formal demonstration, namely, that excluding the unborn from the legal protections against arbitrary killing that the rest of us enjoy is a sin against the principle of equality.

As the Governor saw it, elementary justice demands that all human beings, without regard to age, size, stage of development, or condition of dependency, be accorded the equal protection of the law. Like the prohibition of slavery, the restriction of abortion is a civil rights issue. Abortion is no more a matter of “freedom of choice” than was slavery a matter of “property rights” or segregation a matter of “freedom of association.”

I asked Casey whether he was lonely being a pro“life Democrat. “Not,” he replied, “as lonely as you must be being a pro-life Ivy League professor.” I knew I was going to like this guy….

First Things