Washington D.C., Jan 7, 2021 / 13:24 pm
With Democrats projected to win Tuesday's Senate races in Georgia, the political landscape for pro-lifers is now clear-they will be defending on multiple fronts against an emboldened abortion lobby.
With Democrats holding 50 Senate seats plus Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote, they will have the slimmest of majorities in the Senate. While 60 votes are normally needed to pass legislation with the filibuster intact, a simple Senate majority can approve judicial nominees and pass certain budget bills.
As Democrats already hold the House and White House, it is at this Senate bottleneck where pro-lifers still have the best hope of fending off pro-abortion policies.
They will need Democrats to work with, and one new power broker-the moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)-will be their best option. Representing a conservative state, Manchin will be a "swing" vote on controversial pieces of legislation and will face immense pressure from both Democratic and Republican leadership to vote with his caucus or break with them.
Yet Manchin is either a pro-life stalwart or an unreliable vote-depending on whom you talk to.
"He doesn't give in to pressure," said Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, of Manchin. "The pro-life community needs to stand with him."
However, other pro-life advocates are hesitant about Manchin's pro-life credentials.
He has supported pro-life policies such as a 20-week abortion ban, a mandate of care for babies surviving abortions, and a ban on taxpayer funding of elective abortions. He has also flip-flopped on public funding of Planned Parenthood, and opposed a 2018 pro-life constitutional amendment in West Virginia-which voters enacted into law.
Manchin "hasn't always been consistent," Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications at the Susan B. Anthony List, told CNA.
He will "do whatever he can" to not be the "controversial" deciding vote in the Senate, warned Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action.
"Anybody on our side who is expecting Joe Manchin to be the 51st vote in our favor doesn't know Joe Manchin," McClusky said. "He will be the 52nd vote, but he's very rarely the 51st vote."
One top priority of the abortion lobby is increasing taxpayer funding of abortion, and Manchin could very soon find himself at the center of this fight.
The Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding of elective abortions in Medicaid, has become a target of House Democrats and even President-elect Biden in recent years. They have attacked the policy as discriminatory against low-income women who are more likely to use Medicaid.
It is no insignificant policy, as one pro-life group has estimated that it's resulted in more than 2.4 million fewer abortions since it was enacted in 1976.
Manchin could very well stymie his own party and uphold the Hyde Amendment, as he told National Review recently that he was "strongly opposed" to repealing the policy.
However, while an outright repeal of the Hyde Amendment would trigger backlash by pro-life groups and could ultimately hurt Democrats' chances of keeping the House in 2022, that doesn't mean that public funding of abortion could not be increased through a number of other procedural strategies-without an outright repeal of Hyde.
The next spending bill to include pro-life provisions-or not-might involve COVID relief.