By Joseph Lord
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) will vote against his party’s bill to codify Roe v. Wade, the West Virginia Democrat told reporters hours ahead of an expected vote on the measure.
According to a draft opinion leaked by Politico on May 2, which Chief Justice John Roberts has since indicated is real, SCOTUS may be poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion of the court. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
The possible repeal of the seminal 1973 abortion case, which has defined federal law toward abortion for the past half-century, sent pro-abortion advocates into a flurry of activity online and on Capitol Hill.
Following the decision, Democrat leaders Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that they would bring a bill to the Senate floor, the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), that would nominally codify the standards laid out in Roe v. Wade.
However, that bill also goes well beyond the Roe standard, and would force states to allow abortion well beyond the first trimester.
When a bill of the same name was brought to the floor in 2021, it predictably failed to overcome the 60-vote threshold in the Senate due to opposition from Republicans and Manchin himself, who was the only Democrat to break with his party over the bill.
Though Democrats made some concessions in the revised version of the bill, cutting out some of its more heavily left-leaning language on gender, Manchin said today that he will again vote against the WHPA when it comes to the floor.
The revised WHPA, Manchin said, goes well beyond the bounds of Roe v. Wade.
“We’re gonna be voting on a piece of legislation which I will not vote for today,” Manchin told reporters.
“I would vote for a Roe v. Wade codification if it was today, I was hopeful for that,” Manchin explained. “But I found out yesterday in caucus that wasn’t gonna be.”
Manchin is one of only two Democrats in the Senate who have expressed some pro-life sentiments.
The other, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), announced earlier this week that he would support the WHPA when it comes to the floor.
“This week, I will again vote yes to advance debate on the Women’s Health Protection Act and I will support the bill if there is a vote on final passage in the future,” Casey said in a statement.
He explained: “In the nearly three months since the Senate last voted on the Women’s Health Protection Act, the circumstances around the entire debate on abortion have changed. 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? During my time in public office, I have never voted for—nor do I support—such a ban.”
The legislation is set for a vote on the afternoon of May 11, but its prospects seem grim.
To pass in the Senate, most legislation must overcome a 60-vote filibuster threshold before it can move to the floor for a simple majority vote. With Manchin’s opposition to the bill, at least 11 Republicans—who have long been opposed to the Roe standard and federal encroachment on the rights of states to regulate abortion—would need to defect.
If the bill fails, Democrats will have few other options available to them to counter the decision.