It’s no secret that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s running mate, opposes abortion rights. Pence basically invented the Republican Party's war on Planned Parenthood while he was in Congress. He wants Roe v. Wade to be overturned. He signed every anti-abortion bill that crossed his desk as governor of Indiana.
But Pence signed one anti-abortion bill in March of this year that was so extreme, even some pro-life Republicans opposed it. And it was eventually blocked from going into effect by a federal judge for violating women’s right to choose.
The law did something truly bizarre. It would have basically forced women to seek funerary services for a fetus — whether she’d had an abortion or a miscarriage, and no matter how far along the pregnancy was.
The law Pence backed would have required all fetal tissue to be cremated or buried, an unprecedented measure in state law. The law also banned abortion if the fetus had a "disability" — which would have denied women the right to end a pregnancy even in case of serious fetal anomalies.
The wording of the burial provision meant that technically, even if a woman had a miscarriage at eight weeks of pregnancy at home, she would have to keep the blood and tissue, take it to a hospital or clinic, and have it buried or cremated by a funeral home. The law would have also dramatically increased the cost of an abortion, since providers would have had to spend time and money on arranging the funerary services.
And since about half of miscarriages happen shortly after a fertilized egg is implanted, and occur at roughly the same time a woman would expect her period, many women could be having a miscarriage and not even know it — and thus, technically be violating the law if they didn’t cremate or bury the resulting tissue.
As a protest against the new law's extreme requirements, women who opposed the law started a Facebook group called "Periods for Pence." Members of the group started calling Pence’s office in droves to tell him about their periods in graphic detail.
"Any period could potentially be a miscarriage," wrote the anonymous founder of Periods for Pence in an introductory post. "I would certainly hate for any of my fellow Hoosier women to be at risk of penalty" if they don't properly dispose of or report a potential miscarriage.
The idea of women reporting their periods as a legal precaution sounds absurd and Orwellian. But it's also what happens when you take a law as bizarre and medically incoherent as Indiana's to its logical conclusion.
Anti-abortion laws like the one Pence signed are often criticized for being medically incoherent — for requiring doctors to do things that make no sense from a medical perspective, or restricting abortion in ways that fail to account for the medical realities of pregnancy.
Pence also fell afoul of medical reality in 2015, when Indiana faced a devastating HIV outbreak. Pence arguably helped prolong the outbreak by waiting two months to authorize a clean needle distribution plan. And Pence's budget cuts that shuttered a rural Planned Parenthood arguably helped cause the outbreak in the first place.
Trump often comes across as incoherent and inconsistent on the issue of abortion. But Trump's choice of Pence as running mate helps indicate that Trump is willing to go all in on banning abortion in America.