WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - A fight is underway between two West Virginia Catholics over who will represent their state in the U.S. Senate after the November election.
Incumbent Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin is battling Republican challenger, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, to retain control of his seat on Capitol Hill.
Both men are Catholic. But Sen. Manchin can no longer claim fidelity to Church teaching.
A veteran of West Virginia politics, Manchin has served in the Senate since 2010, when he won a special election to succeed ailing Sen. Robert Byrd.
Considered one of the last surviving Democratic moderates, as his party has drifted ever further to the Left in recent years, Manchin has become more of an ideological standout.
The senator was once considered reliably pro-life. But in recent years, he has compromised his principles.
He supports government funding of Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, responsible for killing more than 300,000 American unborn every year.
In 2014, Manchin voted in support of overturning Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a landmark Supreme Court decision allowing for-profit corporations exemption from the Obamacare contraceptive mandate.
"I voted in support of overturning the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision that ruled for-profit companies can opt out of providing contraceptives to their employees because of religious beliefs," Manchin declared in a statement. "I have always fought to protect the sincerely held religious views of non-profit organizations. ... However, for-profit corporations do not have the same legal privileges as non-profits, and therefore they should not have the same protections as non-profits recognized by law as being a religious organization."
CatholicVote issued a statement blasting the senator, noting that "while Manchin has voted our way a few times, make no mistake: He supports President Obama's notorious HHS mandate, which forces businesses to pay for abortion pills, sterilizations and contraception — even if they have a moral objection to paying for it."
In March 2017, Manchin voted against a Republican bill to allow states to defund Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
At a town hall the following month, he vowed publicly to safeguard taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. The senator was even caught posing for a photo with a young abortion activist and clutching a pink and white "I Stand With Planned Parenthood" sign.
Right-to-life advocates slammed Manchin as having sold out to the abortion lobby. In an effort at damage control, he met with pro-life David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress, whose undercover investigation exposed Planned Parenthood allegedly trafficking in aborted baby body parts. He also posed for a photo with representatives of Students for Life, holding a sign reading "We Don't Need Planned Parenthood."
Jonathan Kott, the senator's communications director, tied to explain away the conflicting photos, insisting any signs Manchin holds "bear no relation to his policy positions."
The senator tries to justify his backing of Planned Parenthood, saying his support is contingent on the Hyde Amendment being law, which bans direct public funding of abortions. His office also spotlights the fact that the abortion giant's only West Virginia facility does not perform abortions.
"These are social issues, not political issues," Manchin said of the abortion debate last year. "You are what you are — I was born and raised that way. Life is very sacred to me."
The senator's sympathy for U.S. abortion providers has earned him a 72 percent positive rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America, one of the most radical abortion activist groups in the nation.
Manchin's opponent, Republican Patrick Morrisey, is considered 100 percent pro-life. His position on abortion has been described as "impeccable" by conservative journal National Review.
In 2014 — his second year as attorney general — he rallied fellow pro-lifers: "In West Virginia, abortion is legally permitted until birth — one of nine states where that is allowed. I will gladly defend new laws that change this terrible fact. Let's do something about our lack of protection for unborn children now."
The next year, Morrisey helped push through West Virginia's Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a ban on abortion after 20 weeks.