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Joe Manchin

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) participates in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee markup on May 3, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

'Beyond Shameful': Manchin Joins Senate GOP—Again—to Block Abortion Rights

"Any politician who is not speaking up and voting to protect our rights in this moment is complicit in what comes next—the suffering and panic that will ensue if Roe falls."

Jessica Corbett

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia joined with Senate Republicans Wednesday to block a bill that would affirm abortion rights at the federal level as the U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority is poised to reverse Roe v. Wade in the weeks ahead.

Though the 51-49 vote on advancing the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA) was anticipated, with Manchin confirming his position in advance and the outcome mirroring a February vote, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's draft of a forthcoming opinion has heightened pressure on congressional Democrats to protect and expand reproductive rights nationwide.

Noting the leaked draft and how "Senate Republicans remain firmly entrenched against their constituents' human rights," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, declared that "it is beyond shameful that even though 70% of the American public support Roe, there are not 50 votes in the Senate to defend it."

Jayapal—who has publicly shared her own abortion experience—highlighted that "the end of Roe will be disastrous for the health of millions of people, but the impact will be hardest on Black and Brown people, young people, people in abusive relationships, people who live in rural areas, and those with lower incomes who won't be able to cross state lines for care."

The congresswoman asserted that "our ongoing fight for access to abortion must include reforming the filibuster," urging Democrats to stop letting the Jim Crow-era rule impede various progressive priorities. While not mentioning Manchin by name, Jayapal added that "it is also clear that we urgently need not just a Democratic majority in the Senate, but a true pro-reproductive rights majority, as we have in the House."

NARAL Pro-Choice America president Mini Timmaraju also forcefully called out the GOP with a subtler jab at Manchin.

"Today, Republicans in the Senate once again failed the American people," Timmaraju said. "Instead of safeguarding our fundamental rights, Republican senators have once again abdicated their responsibility."

"We have a message for the lawmakers who blocked this bill and refused to fight for our freedoms and our families: Voters will remember who showed up for them at this moment of crisis and who chose to walk away," she added. "We'll see you at the ballot box."

Timmaraju and Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, expressed gratitude for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the other 48 senators who supported holding a final vote on the WHPA Wednesday, with the latter saying that "they understand the stakes and what we stand to lose."

"Overturning Roe is not the endgame of the anti-abortion movement," Northup warned. "Their goal is a nationwide ban on abortion, and they will do everything they can to make that happen. Any politician who is not speaking up and voting to protect our rights in this moment is complicit in what comes next—the suffering and panic that will ensue if Roe falls."

Given the stakes at this "unprecedented moment" for bodily autonomy, "we're well past the moment of show votes or more Washington double-talk," charged Sonja Spoo, director of reproductive rights campaigns at UltraViolet. "This vote was important for showing the American people where their leaders stand on our constitutional rights and freedoms but it can not be the final say."

"We need our elected leaders to act with the urgency this moment demands. No Senate rule or procedure is more important than our elected leaders doing their jobs and fighting for our rights," she said. "We're taking to the streets this weekend and we will be marching, protesting, and holding our elected leaders accountable straight until election day."

Though 74-year-old Manchin is not yet up for reelection in November, Democrats and defenders of reproductive freedom have ramped up warnings about what could happen in Republicans—who are plotting for a federal six-week abortion ban—regain control of Congress or the White House in the next two cycles.

"Once again, Republicans and an obstructionist Democrat in the Senate have blocked crucial legislation supported by the American people," said Nelini Stamp, the Working Families Party director of strategy and partnerships. "A Democratic majority that won't defend abortion rights is not the majority we need."

"We must oust Democrats who are anti-choice or weak on choice," she argued, pointing to figures like Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)—who was the only party member in the House to vote against the WHPA last year and now faces a runoff with a progressive, pro-choice challenger: Jessica Cisneros.

"Things seem dark, but there is a path forward to securing our rights if we work alongside reproductive justice groups to organize in the streets and in elections across the country," Stamp said. "Together, we can build a majority in Congress that will actually deliver for women and everyone who needs access to abortion. We can reform the filibuster, pass the Women's Health Protection Act, and begin to rebalance a Supreme Court that has been captured by right-wing reactionaries."

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