Joe Manchin Might Have Helped Kill Roe v. Wade

A bill to codify abortion rights into federal law died in the Senate on Monday, after it failed to amass enough support to pass a procedural vote.

The Women's Health Protection Act needed the support of several Republicans to reach the necessary 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster in the evenly split Senate. It was co-sponsored by all but two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

It failed to advance after the Senate voted 46-48 to block the bill, with Manchin joining Senate Republicans in opposition. Six senators didn't vote.

Manchin's office has been contacted for comment.

The legislation aimed to "protect a person's ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider's ability to provide abortion services." It proposed that the U.S. attorney general could sue any state or government official who violated its terms.

The House passed the bill in September last year, largely along party lines.

It was put to a vote in the Senate as the Supreme Court weighs the fate of the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.

The right to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, which is roughly at around 23 or 24 weeks, has been protected under the Constitution since the decision in Roe.

Decision in the Spring

But last December, the court—which has a 6-3 conservative majority—signaled that it was willing to undermine Roe and uphold a Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A decision in that case is expected in late spring.

Some 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion if Roe is overturned or fundamentally weakened, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

Reproductive rights advocates view federal legislation as perhaps the best chance to preserve the right to an abortion in the U.S.

"The outcome of today's vote on WHPA was disappointing, but the progress we made along the way is still a big step towards protecting abortion access," Alexis McGill Johnson, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a tweet on Monday.

"We are grateful for all the organizers, volunteers, supporters, & elected officials who fought for WHPA! We won't stop fighting."

"Abortion is a fundamental right," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, ahead of Monday's vote. "Women's decisions over women's health care belong to women, not to extremist right-wing legislatures."

Opponents characterized the bill as "extreme" and said it would nullify state laws that have been passed to restrict abortions.

Ahead of Monday's vote, Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski proposed an amendment that would codify Roe and the Supreme Court's 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed Roe.

"I have long supported a woman's right to choose, but my position is not without limits, and this partisan Women's Health Protection Act simply goes too far," Murkowski said in a statement. "It would broadly supersede state laws and infringe on Americans' religious freedoms."

Sen. Joe Manchin arrives at the Capitol
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) arrives at the Capitol for a briefing from Biden administration officials for the Senate on February 28, 2022, in Washington DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images