Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List, one of the nation's largest and preeminent pro-life groups, is placing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) squarely within its crosshairs as the senator weighs whether to support Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Last week, SBA List held a rally at the West Virginia capital imploring Manchin to vote in favor of Kavanaugh, nominated by President Donald Trump to succeed the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The rally, coupled with the opening of the group's statewide headquarters, is part of a concerted effort by SBA to galvanize pro-life voters to oust Manchin, who is facing a tough re-election battle this November, according to the West Virginia Metro News.
Jill Stanek, the national campaign chair of SBA List, urged Manchin to vote for Kavanaugh's confirmation. She argued Trump's nominee is an experienced, qualified judge and to confirm him is "the right thing to do." Stanek noted her organization is committed to working against Manchin's re-election, whether he votes for confirmation or not, given the senator's "squishy" record on abortion.
"We would still oppose him but we think it’s the right thing to do," Stanek said. "It certainly would help him but we still think he still is squishy on the issue of abortion and has voted to fund Planned Parenthood."
SBA List has been a vocal critic of the senator for siding with Democrats against efforts from the right to defund Planned Parenthood. The organization has committed itself this election cycle to marshal its resources in making West Virginians aware of Manchin's "profound betrayal of the unborn and their mothers."
The senator has not signaled if he will vote for Kavanaugh but has praised the nominee as a "very fine person of high moral standards" and an individual with "all the right qualities" to serve on the nation's highest court. He has also expressed that he wants to listen to his constituents and take their opinions into consideration before making a final decision.
Manchin, a former governor of West Virginia who has previously identified as pro-life, has been ambiguous on abortion since joining the Senate in 2010. At times the senator has attempted to walk a tightrope on the issue between his party, which is increasingly making abortion a litmus test for its candidates, and his constituents, 58 percent of whom believe abortion should be illegal, according to the Pew Research Center.
Underscoring the senator's ideological triangulation is that he has both voted in favor of and against defunding Planned Parenthood, the largest single provider of abortion services in America. In 2015, Manchin voted to defund the organization after the Center for Medical Progress released secretly-recorded online videos of Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of fetal organs.
The senator reversed his stance in 2017 by siding with his fellow Democrats in voting against legislation banning states from withholding tax dollars marked for "family-planning" purposes from Planned Parenthood and other abortion-providers. Despite Manchin's opposition, the measure passed with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote.
Unlike the majority of Democrats in the Senate, however, Manchin has continuously voted in favor of legislation banning abortion after 20 weeks, such as he did in 2015, 2017, and 2018.
Congressional scorecards put together by leading pro-abortion groups, such as Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America, have had equal difficulty in distinguishing where Manchin stands on the issue.
In 2016, the senator received a 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America, indicating he voted overwhelmingly in line with the group's priorities. To date, however, Manchin has only garnered a 57 percent rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund for 2018, illustrating a mixed record on abortion.
Manchin faces a difficult re-election battle this year against West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R.). West Virginia, which has increasingly trended Republican in the past two decades, went for Trump by nearly 42 percentage points in 2016.