Manchin Pours Cold Water on Senate Democrats' Radical Pro-Abortion Bill


Even if the Democrats somehow manage to nuke the filibuster between now and the next Congress, they can count West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin out when it comes to supporting his party’s radical abortion bill.

In a vote Monday night, the Senate defeated the Women’s Health Protection Act by a 48-46 margin, according to NBC News. The bill would have established the right to an abortion at the federal level, going considerably further than Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

Although the vote came mostly along party lines and was nowhere near clearing the 60-vote filibuster hurdle, Manchin was the one defector from either party — something that will have major implications going forward.

While the Democrats have kept the filibuster intact for now (thanks to Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who refused to go along with the 50 votes needed to invoke the so-called nuclear option in an evenly divided Senate), the attacks on the institution and the pressure on the two holdouts continue. (The Western Journal has covered how intense the pressure has gotten and will continue to fight Democrats’ efforts to weaken the filibuster. You can help our fight by subscribing.)

The Women’s Health Protection Act passed the House on a 218-211 vote in September, again along almost strict party lines. (One Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, voted nay.)

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In the upper chamber, six senators didn’t vote. However, none of those — Republican Sens. John Kennedy of Louisiana, Rand Paul of Kentucky and James Inhofe of Oklahoma; and Democrat Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Ben Lujan of New Mexico and Raphael Warnock of Georgia — was on the fence.

As the Daily Caller’s Laurel Duggan noted, the bill would have gone much further than just codifying Roe v. Wade as the law of the land.

“The WHPA would have invalidated all state and local laws restricting what types of abortion procedures are permissible while banning requirements that doctors give women medical tests such as ultrasounds before administering abortions, unless such requirements also applied to “medically comparable procedures,” Duggan reported.

“The bill proposed various deregulatory measures that would have loosened safety requirements nationwide for abortion providers, such as ending restrictions on doctors prescribing pills via ‘telemedicine’ for do-it-yourself chemical abortions at home,” she wrote.

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Jeane Mancini, president of the March for Life, said the legislation was “obviously designed by pro-abortion politicians to appease the abortion lobby.”

“Lawmakers, regardless of party affiliation, must reject it,” she said.

The legislation comes as the Supreme Court, now with a nominal 6-3 conservative majority (depending on which way the wind inside Chief Justice John Roberts’ chambers is blowing that day), could overturn Roe v. Wade when it rules in June on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the biggest abortion case to hit the court in decades.

Thus, Manchin’s nay is big for a few reasons, even if there was no way the WHPA would have passed the 60-vote hurdle needed to clear the filibuster.

The WHPA was supposed to be a sign the Democrats were trying to pass abortion rights legislation on which they were united. According to, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer even called a news conference before the vote, saying the right to an abortion was “a vital and important issue” and that Democrats were standing “as a united front.” So much for that.

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“Although it’s a doomed bill, the consideration of the Women’s Health Protection Act is still important,” Vox’s Li Zhou wrote. “By holding a vote on the legislation, Democrats are highlighting abortion rights as a priority and getting lawmakers — including vulnerable Republicans — on the record about where they stand.”

In the end, the only one who blinked was Manchin. (Pennsylvania Democrat Sen. Bob Casey, who bills himself as a “pro-life Democrat,” voted for the bill.)

It’s a pretty important blink, though: On the off chance that Democrats manage to retain both houses of Congress in November’s midterms, the margins will likely be narrow enough that Manchin will still represent a swing vote.

And while the WHPA might have been a doomed bill going into Monday’s vote, that doesn’t mean it was going to remain a doomed vote.

NBC News asked Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington about what it called “the dead end the bill faces,” to which she responded that it was “day one.”

“We’re not going to give up. We’re not going to go away,” Murray said. “I don’t want to go back to the old days where abortions occurred unsafely, women died. I’m going to keep fighting and I want Americans fighting with us.”

If Roe v. Wade is overturned in June, the WHPA is going to join the Democrats’ voting reform bills as reasons they say the filibuster needs to be tossed aside in certain circumstances — and one that’ll likely subject both Democratic filibuster holdouts to more intense pressure than the first time around, given the nuclear-level freakout any narrowing of Roe protections for abortion will cause on the left.

Manchin’s nay vote looms a bit larger, then, even considering Sinema voted for the WHPA. It’s a sign that the doomed vote will indeed remain a doomed vote, at least for this Congress — a victory for the unborn and for pro-life forces, and yet another reason for the left to collapse into paroxysms of anger over the senator from West Virginia.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture