Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) is facing criticism for trying to have the best of both worlds when it comes to support for Planned Parenthood.
Manchin is one of the few pro-life Democrats in Congress and has had to balance his policy positions on the issue. Despite being personally pro-life, Manchin has voted against Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood for providing abortions.
Shortly after the Center for Medical Progress, or CMP, released secretly-recorded online videos of Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of baby organs, Manchin voted in August 2015 to defund Planned Parenthood.
"I am very troubled by the callous behavior of Planned Parenthood staff in recently released videos, which casually discuss the sale, possibly for profit, of fetal tissue after an abortion," Manchin said at the time. "Until these allegations have been answered and resolved, I do not believe that taxpayer money should be used to fund this organization."
Other Democratic officials defended Planned Parenthood and moved to press charges against the individual behind the secretly-recorded videos. Critics of the videos asserted that they were heavily edited and fake.
Manchin switched his vote to protect federal funding for Planned Parenthood in March and now believes the CMP videos are fake.
The senator continued to anger pro-life activists last month when he posed for a picture holding a sign supportive of Planned Parenthood. Days later, Manchin met with Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins and posed with her and her group holding a sign that read, "We don't need Planned Parenthood."
— Reid J. Epstein (@reidepstein) May 9, 2017
The two contrasting pictures led to a wave of criticism and caused Manchin's communications director, Jonathan Kott to release a statement. Kott said the senator will pose for photos with any constituent and that any signs he holds bear no relation to his policy positions. Despite the outcry from pro-life groups, Manchin continues to support Planned Parenthood.
Axios wrote an article Monday that laid out a timeline of Manchin's changing position on Planned Parenthood funding.
Aug. 2015: Manchin votes to defund Planned Parenthood. He says, "I am very troubled by the callous behavior of Planned Parenthood staff in recently released videos, which casually discuss the sale, possibly for profit, of fetal tissue after an abortion. Until these allegations have been answered and resolved, I do not believe that taxpayer money should be used to fund this organization."
March 2017: Manchin sides with his party to vote against a Republican bill that allows states to withhold funding from Planned Parenthood and other abortion-providers.
April 2017: Pro-life activists attack Manchin for posing for a photograph while holding a pink sign saying, "I stand with Planned Parenthood."
May 4, 2017: Students for Life president Kristan Hawkins meets with Manchin outside a Washington event. He poses for a photo with her team holding the sign: "We don't need Planned Parenthood." Manchin tells Hawkins he voted to defund Planned Parenthood because he was horrified by the videos, but when he discovered the videos weren't real he switched his vote. She told him the videos were real and came away with the impression that if she and her staff could persuade Manchin of that fact, he'd vote to defund Planned Parenthood.
Later that day: Hawkins goes to Manchin's Capitol Hill office for a meeting. She brings Daleiden, the maker of the secretly recorded Planned Parenthood videos, and the Senator and his staff meet with both of them. Hawkins and Daleiden both told Manchin and his staff that two forensic reports showed the authenticity of the videos. She said she walked away hopeful that Manchin would reconsider his decision to fund Planned Parenthood.
Manchin's issues over Planned Parenthood come as the Democratic Party is facing an identity crisis over the issue of abortion. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez recently stated that there is no room in the party for pro-life Americans. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) disagreed, saying the Democratic Party welcomes pro-life individuals.