Joe Manchin Struggles to Defend Vote to Fund Planned Parenthood

On Monday, embattled Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) struggled to defend his vote in favor of continuing funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider. Last week, he voted against an amendment offered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would block taxpayer funding to abortion providers.

Manchin faces a tough re-election bid from the state's Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. West Virginia voted for Trump by a whopping 42 points (68.7 percent for Donald Trump, 26.5 percent for Hillary Clinton).

When Hoppy Kercheval, host of the West Virginia radio program MetroNews Talkline, asked Manchin to defend his vote on Monday, the senator insisted that none of the taxpayer money for Planned Parenthood went to subsidize abortions.

"I've checked it inside and out with the Hyde Amendment [a law preventing public funds from subsidizing abortion] — it can't happen," Manchin insisted. "It's against the law." While it is illegal for taxpayer funding to directly support abortion, many argue that since money is fungible, taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood for other purposes do effectively prop up the organization's abortion practice.

When Kercheval cited Rand Paul's contention that "there is a co-mingling of funds by Planned Parenthood," the embattled West Virginia senator shot back, "He is just wrong."

Manchin challenged Rand Paul to present evidence of "one penny" in taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood that goes to abortions. "If he has proof that there's one penny of money that goes to Planned Parenthood for ... for women who have had preventative care, for women's care, if he can find one penny, one dollar, I'll vote against Planned Parenthood funding," the senator promised.

According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report published in March, abortion providers received $1.5 billion in taxpayer funding over the course of just two years, 2013-2015. The same report showed that Planned Parenthood affiliates under criminal investigation for the sale of unborn baby body parts received $544 million from taxpayers.

It beggars belief for Manchin to suggest that when abortion groups receive this much money from taxpayers, that financial boon does not in any way enable them to perform more abortions than they otherwise would have. The burden of proof should not be on Rand Paul to prove that the money is not fungible, but rather on Manchin to prove that no money helps abortion in any way.

Manchin defended his vote in favor of funding Planned Parenthood by referencing the one clinic the abortion organization runs in West Virginia. "Now, we have one clinic in the state of West Virginia, in Vienna. It provides health care, preventative health care for women and mostly young females," Manchin said. "I can't look at them, Hoppy, and say, 'I'm sorry but because of me being hunt politically, I can't vote so that you'll have funding for the clinic.' I just can't do it."

"But I am pro-life, and I think everyone knows. Look at my record," the senator insisted. "I voted with [Sen.] Lindsey Graham [R-S.C.] on the 20-week ban on abortions, I voted for everything."

Manchin did indeed vote for the 20-week abortion ban, which failed to receive the 60 votes to pass the Senate in January. However, the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List has accused him of flip-flopping on the taxpayer funding of abortion.

In April 2011, he voted against a resolution that would have barred taxpayer funds from going to Planned Parenthood. In August 2015, however, he voted for cloture on a bill to prohibit federal funding for Planned Parenthood. He also voted pro-life in December 2015, opposing an amendment to an Obamacare repeal bill that would have stripped language defunding Planned Parenthood. But in March 2017, he voted for abortion, opposing a resolution that would have allowed states to remove federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Manchin's emphasis on the one Planned Parenthood clinic seems rather telling. A simple Google search reveals that while there is only one clinic operated by the nation's largest abortion provider in West Virginia, there are at least 28 different pregnancy resource centers. These pro-life organizations provide vital counseling, aide, and support for women in crisis pregnancies.

Yet these organizations, which so outnumber Planned Parenthood in West Virginia, receive not a penny of federal funding.

If Joe Manchin finds it so hard to tell one Planned Parenthood clinic he had to vote to defund them, why does he not find it hard to tell 28 pregnancy centers that he will not help their efforts to empower pregnant women in need?

The pro-life red state voters in West Virginia might like to hear an answer.

Listen to Manchin's interview below.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.