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Sen. Joe Manchin walks with reporters

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is followed by reporters as he leaves a caucus meeting with Senate Democrats at the U.S. Capitol Building on December 17, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Manchin a 'No' on Protecting Abortion Rights From GOP Assault

House lawmakers from the Progressive, Pro-Choice, and Democratic Women's caucuses plan to march to the Senate chamber ahead of Wednesday's vote on the Women's Health Protection Act.

Kenny Stancil

Right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia confirmed that he is opposed to the Women's Health Protection Act just hours before a planned Wednesday vote on the legislation, spoiling his party's attempt to codify abortion rights into federal law before the U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority has a chance to overturn Roe v. Wade.

"This is unacceptable," the hosts of a progressive podcast focused on Appalachia tweeted in response.

According to CNN chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju, Manchin endorsed "a codification of Roe" but said the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA) "is too broad" and "goes too far."

Manchin previously helped kill the House-passed bill—which would enshrine patients' right to receive legal and safe abortions and healthcare professionals' right to provide them—in February, joining all Senate Republicans present to block the measure before it even reached the floor.

Last week's publication of Justice Samuel Alito's leaked draft opinion revealed that the high court's right-wing majority is set to strike down Roe. If this ruling is finalized, abortion could soon be outlawed in more than half the country, and Republican lawmakers have signaled their intention to pursue a federal six-week ban if they retake Congress and the White House.

Despite this imminent threat to bodily autonomy, Manchin doubled down on his defense of the filibuster less than 24 hours after Alito's draft ruling was made public. The West Virginia Democrat characterized the anti-democratic rule that requires 60 votes to advance most legislation—therefore giving veto power to the minority party in a closely divided upper chamber—as "the only protection we have in democracy."

After they helped prevent debate on the WHPA in February, Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) unveiled the Reproductive Choice Act, an opposing bill that would codify Roe while permitting states to restrict abortions after fetal viability.

Even if Manchin were to support their watered-down alternative or write his own bill, such legislation would also fall victim to the filibuster unless it garners 60 votes—a virtual impossibility given the Republican Party's growing attacks on reproductive freedom.

As Jordan Zakarin from More Perfect Union pointed out on social media, Manchin made the same empty promise about voting rights, and no federal legislation to counteract the GOP's nationwide assault on ballot access has materialized.

When he teed up Wednesday's vote on a modified version of the WHPA, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) failed to mention filibuster reform.

Eliminating or weakening the 60-vote rule would require the support of the entire Senate Democratic Caucus—including Manchin and fellow conservative Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—and Vice President Kamala Harris. It remains a necessary prerequisite to passing the WHPA and a host of other languishing bills already approved by House Democrats.

House lawmakers from the Progressive, Pro-Choice, and Democratic Women's caucuses plan to march to the Senate chamber ahead of Wednesday's vote on the WHPA.

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