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Joe Manchin says he'll vote against Democrats' bill codifying Roe v. Wade's abortion rights protections

Business Insider logo Business Insider 5/11/2022 bgriffiths@insider.com (Brent D. Griffiths,Joseph Zeballos-Roig)
Sen. Joe Manchin Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images © Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images Sen. Joe Manchin Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
  • Joe Manchin said he will vote against moving forward on Democrats' bill to codify federal abortion rights.
  • Manchin said that his party's proposal goes too far but that he would support a more narrow measure.
  • Democrats have renewed focus on abortion rights in the wake of a leaked draft Supreme Court opinion. 

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin told reporters on Wednesday that he'll vote against his party's bill that codifies federal abortion rights as the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The West Virginia lawmaker insisted that he supports a federal right to abortion, but said the Democratic bill, called the Women's Health Protection Act, goes too far. 

"It's just disappointing that we're going to be voting on a piece of legislation which I would not vote for today," Manchin told reporters. "But I would vote for Roe v. Wade codification if it was today."

Manchin tore into the proposal, saying it "expands abortion." He told reporters that he has been "pro-life all of my life" and that he believes in some exceptions to bans on abortions.

"And with that, that's not where we are today," he said. "We should not be dividing this country further. We're already divided."

Democrats' efforts were already expected to fail before today due to the Senate's filibuster that effectively requires 60 votes for the bill. But Manchin's opposition means he will likely be the lone Senate Democrat to vote against moving forward on the legislation. The bill was passed by the House last year and will be voted on in the Senate later on Wednesday.

Senate Majority Chuck Schumer has stressed that every senator should be put on the record on the issue. Manchin previously voted against moving forward on the measure in February.


Video: Senate to vote on abortion rights bill next week (ABC News)

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On Tuesday, Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, reversed his previous position and said that he would support the party's proposal. Casey, who has at times supported abortion restrictions, said that the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion overturning abortion rights had changed his mind. In February, Casey voted to allow debate on the bill but said he was opposed to the underlying legislation. 

"In light of the leaked Supreme Court decision draft overturning Roe v. Wade, and subsequent reports that Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate will introduce legislation to enact a nationwide six-week ban, the real question of the moment is: do you support a categorical ban on abortion?" Casey said in a statement. "During my time in public office, I have never voted for — nor do I support — such a ban."

Just over a week ago, Politico published Justice Samuel Alito's draft majority opinion overturning the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling and its later upholding of some abortion rights in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. The court later confirmed the authenticity of the opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts has ordered an investigation into the extraordinary leak. 

Manchin's position is similar to Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who support abortion rights, but have argued for more narrowly tailored legislation.

Collins and Murkowski have raised concerns that Democrats' proposal would not protect religious objections to abortions. There is no language in the bill that would protect medical providers who object to abortion for moral or religious reasons aren't obligated to provide them.

The legislation would outlaw prohibitions on abortion prior to fetal viability, which is generally between 23 and 28 weeks.

It would also require states to allow post-viability abortion "for the preservation of the life or health of the person who is pregnant."The Act would strike down hundreds of state-level abortion restrictions, including pre-abortion counseling requirements or "medically unnecessary in-person visits." The definition of what is considered the "health" of a pregnant person has raged for years.

Pro-abortion rights groups have long argued that such counseling is only required as a way to try to coerce a woman out of getting an abortion. At least 13 states require in-person counseling, per the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Senate Democrats are expected to attempt to move forward on the Women's Health Protection Act later this afternoon.

Kimberly Leonard contributed to this report.

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