In Northeast Pennsylvania, Pro-Life Means Republican - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
In Northeast Pennsylvania, Pro-Life Means Republican
The late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey Sr. (Wikimedia Commons)

There was a time not that long ago when virtually every candidate for political office in Northeastern Pennsylvania was pro-life, out of either conviction or political necessity. In this old, coal-mining region where European immigrants — many of the Roman Catholic faith — put down roots and raised families, to be “pro-choice” (i.e., pro-abortion) was religious and political heresy. And it didn’t matter if you were Republican or Democrat. That is no longer the case.

In pre-pandemic 2020, and just the other day (Nov. 5) in 2022, I attended the annual Prayer Breakfast of the Scranton Chapter of Pennsylvanians for Human Life. It was their 38th annual event. Two years ago, the principal speaker was former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and the event venue was dotted with Republican candidates for local, state, and national office. I don’t recall seeing any Democrat officeholders or candidates. This year, Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, another former Trump adviser, appeared via live video, and the principal speaker was the Rev. Gerald E. Murray, a Catholic priest who frequently appears on EWTN, Fox News, and other media outlets. Again, the event venue was dotted with local Republican officeholders and candidates. There were no Democrat officeholders or candidates in sight.

One of the speakers at this year’s Prayer Breakfast was Ernie Preate Jr., the former attorney general of Pennsylvania who argued Planned Parenthood v. Casey before the Supreme Court, a case that upheld Pennsylvania’s law that imposed certain legal restrictions on abortions but did not reverse Roe v. Wade. (Full disclosure: I worked for Preate when he was district attorney of Lackawanna County and Pennsylvania attorney general.) Preate, a Republican, worked closely with then-Gov. Robert P. Casey, a Democrat, to fashion and defend a law that would pass constitutional muster. Preate and his entire family have been longtime members of the pro-life movement in Pennsylvania — his two brothers and one of his daughters were in attendance at the Prayer Breakfast.

Preate at the age of 82 still practices law and still has the ability to wow an audience. He praised the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which reversed Roe and Casey, but he told the audience that the pro-life fight has merely shifted from the Supreme Court to the state legislatures and governors’ offices throughout the nation. Dobbs, he noted, didn’t outlaw abortion; it merely returned that policy issue back to the individual states. And he noted further that some state appellate courts have ruled that their state constitutions protect abortion rights, and other state courts may do likewise. So, the struggle to protect the unborn goes on in the wake of Dobbs.

Father Murray, who studied canon law at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, noted that in many states after Dobbs, abortions have dramatically decreased, but not in Pennsylvania — here they have actually increased, because other states have enacted far more restrictive abortion laws than Pennsylvania’s current law and some states have outlawed abortions under most circumstances. Father Murray also had critical observations about President Joe Biden, who often rhetorically wraps himself in the Catholic faith yet pledges to work to codify Roe v. Wade as the law of the land.

Defending the life of innocent unborn children was once a bipartisan cause in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Gone are the days when Republican Ernie Preate and Democrat Robert Casey, political adversaries, joined hands to protect the unborn. Today, Preate’s two daughters — Elizabeth and Alexandra — are leaders in the pro-life movement, while Casey’s namesake son, U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., once a self-proclaimed “pro-life Democrat,” now favors, like his fellow Catholic president, making Roe v. Wade the law of the land.

Image: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
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