Monday afternoon saw the long debate between U.S. senators over a bill that would have halted all government funding for Planned Parenthood. Senate Republicans cooked up this bill after a highly edited video targeting the women's health center spread far and wide over the Internet. The bill ultimately failed with a final vote of 53-46, which fell short of the 60 votes needed for the measure to advance. While voting was drawn almost entirely along party lines, there were two Democrats who voted to defund Planned Parenthood.
Produced by the Center for Medical Progress, the controversial video showed a Planned Parenthood executive speaking glibly about fetal tissue donations with undercover anti-abortion activists. It offered an opportunity for vehemently pro-life Republicans to try and pass new legislation that would make it almost impossible for Planned Parenthood to continue to function (41 percent of Planned Parenthood's funding comes from federal dollars). And it may have had an impact on the two Dems who crossed the aisle on the vote.
Both of these maverick Democrats actually happen to be named Joe. From Indiana, you've got Joe Donnelly, and then there is Joe Manchin, who represents West Virginia. Both of them stepped way out of party lines and voted in favor of this (let's call a spade a spade) preposterous and potentially devastating bill. So what is the deal with these Joes?
Our friend Donnelly hails from a pretty conservative state. Indiana rolled out the highly contentious Religious Freedom Restoration Act earlier in 2015 (colloquially known as "the Indiana anti-gay law"), and the state also sentenced Purvi Patel to 20 years in prison for "feticide" after she miscarried. So, Donnelly isn't exactly hailing from a place we'd call progressive. In 2008, he stated, "I believe that being pro-life means promoting life at every stage, from conception until natural death. I will always vote according to my faith and my conscience on life issues." So there's what we can expect from J.D. now and forever more on the abortion topic. He approved a bill similar to the one the Senate considered on Monday in 2011, when there was legislation on the table to ban federal health care coverage for abortions.
Moving on to Manchin. Frankly I don't see how this man could have ever been registered with the Democratic Party. He is a card-carrying life member of the NRA, opposed the EPA emissions restrictions law, and while he was still governor of West Virginia in 2010, told Fox News, "I'm pro-life. And we're just a different type of Democrat here in West Virginia." That seems to be understating it. Are Democrats in West Virginia... Republicans?
According to The Washington Post, Manchin told reporters on Monday that "until these allegations have been answered and resolved, I do not believe that taxpayer money should be used to fund this organization [Planned Parenthood]." If that's his excuse now, then I'm not sure what it was in 2010, five years before these doctored videos surfaced.
For anyone familiar with politics in Indiana and West Virginia, these dissenters are probably not a surprise. This particular call to defund Planned Parenthood has garnered a great deal of attention, and now you're a bit more aware of where certain elected officials on both sides of the aisle fall on the abortion debate. It's been made starkly clear that these two, while a part of the Democratic majority in the Senate, can't be counted on to vote with the party on abortion rights.