'Shameful': Joe Manchin kills bill to federally enshrine abortion rights

'Shameful': Joe Manchin kills bill to federally enshrine abortion rights
Sen. Joe Manchin III image via Screengrab
Joe Manchin’s current hostages: Universal pre-K and affordable elder care

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday joined Senate Republicans in blocking legislation that would codify abortion rights into federal law, a vote that came as the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court prepared to rule on a case that could strike a fatal blow to Roe v. Wade.

The final vote on whether to advance the House-passed Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA) was 46-48, well short of the three-fifths supermajority needed to break the Republican-led filibuster. Every Senate Republican present voted no while every Democrat, with the exception of Manchin (D-W.Va.), voted yes.

The House passed the WHPA in September, shortly after the Supreme Court let stand a draconian Texas law that deputizes private citizens to enforce the state's near-total ban on abortions. The Republican-authored Texas law, which inspired copycat bills across the country, has caused a 60% decline in abortions performed in the state.

"Today I voted for the Women's Health Protection Act to safeguard the right to an abortion, but it's shameful that the Senate failed to pass this bill," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote in a social media post following the Monday night vote. "The majority of Americans agree that Roe v. Wade should remain the law of the land and I'm going to keep fighting for this."

In a matter of weeks, the Supreme Court is expected to hand down its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a case that poses a direct threat to abortion protections enshrined under the high court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

The case is centered on a Mississippi law that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy—a ban that other Republican-led states have sought to replicate. In oral arguments held in December, a majority of justices on the high court appeared poised to uphold the Mississippi law.

"Millions of Americans are on the cusp of losing the right to determine their own lives, health, and futures," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement Monday. "We are undaunted that we fell short of the necessary votes today... A vote against this bill is a vote against the fundamental right to control one's own body and future. WHPA may not have passed today, but the groundswell behind it will continue to grow until it becomes law."

Georgeanne Usova, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU, added that "with the Supreme Court seemingly poised to overturn or gut Roe v. Wade and an extreme abortion ban already causing devastation across Texas, it has never been more urgent to protect abortion access nationwide."

"We need our elected officials to address this crisis—and those who supported this critical bill today voted to defend every person's right to make decisions about their lives and futures," said Usova. "Unfortunately, those who blocked its passage are allowing that fundamental right to be dismantled. The consequences of failing to advance this legislation will fall hardest on people who already face the greatest structural barriers to healthcare, including people of color, people with low incomes, immigrants, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people."

"No one should be forced to carry a pregnancy against their will," Usova continued, "and we won't stop working until every person can get the essential abortion care they need."

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