Anti-abortion protesters will march on Washington, DC, Friday as part of the annual March for Life. And for the first time, a sitting vice president, Mike Pence, will speak at the march.
Pence is one of the most actively anti-abortion Republican politicians in the US today. He has said that he hopes to see Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, “consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.” Meanwhile, however, seven in 10 Americans oppose overturning Roe.
Here’s an overview of Pence’s record on reproductive rights, both as a member of Congress representing Indiana from 2001 to 2013, and as governor of Indiana from 2013 to 2016.
He launched the GOP’s national war on Planned Parenthood
As Sarah Kliff explained for Vox, Pence started introducing bills to defund Planned Parenthood at the federal level in 2007. He did so every year until 2011, when his efforts finally got traction — and nearly caused a government shutdown.
As I’ve explained, Pence wasn’t the first to think of the idea. Republicans have been trying to defund Planned Parenthood at the state level since the late 1970s, as part of a broader strategy to make abortion less affordable and accessible.
But Pence is the one who turned defunding Planned Parenthood from a fringe issue into a mainstream GOP priority. Republicans voted nine times to defund the organization in the last Congress alone, and they’ve promised to try again this year.
He sponsored extreme anti-abortion bills in Congress
One bill would have essentially re-defined rape for the specific purposes of abortion access. The Hyde Amendment already blocks the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except in the case of rape, incest, or to save the woman’s life. But Pence’s bill would have limited that rape exception to cases of “forcible” rape — an outdated, overly limited definition of rape that the federal government no longer uses.
Pence also introduced “personhood” legislation that would have defined a fertilized egg as a person. That would have outlawed abortion, and possibly some forms of contraception, as a result. Similar bills have repeatedly been rejected by voters as too extreme, even in states like Mississippi.
Neither of those bills passed.
He signed every anti-abortion bill that crossed his desk as governor of Indiana
As governor, Pence signed at least eight anti-abortion bills passed by the Indiana legislature.
The most notable of these was a massive omnibus anti-abortion bill Pence signed in March of last year — which was later blocked by a judge because it unconstitutionally limited women’s right to abortion.
In practice, however, the provision would have indirectly banned fetal tissue donation for research, and made abortion more expensive by essentially requiring funerary services for fetuses — no matter what stage of development. (That part of the bill inspired women to start a “Periods for Pence” campaign to call his office and tell staffers about their periods, just in case they were having a miscarriage the state would need to be notified about.)
The bill also prohibited “discrimination” against a fetus “based only on the unborn child’s sex, race, color, national origin, ancestry or disability, including Down syndrome.” In practice, it kept women from choosing abortion in cases of serious anomalies, and encouraged doctors to unconstitutionally scrutinize a woman’s motives for seeking abortion.
Other anti-abortion provisions Pence signed as governor of Indiana included:
- Restricting funding for Planned Parenthood, forcing five clinics to close — including one clinic that had been the only HIV testing center in all of Scott County, which experienced an HIV outbreak a few years later.
- Signing a bill, which was later blocked by a judge, designed to shut down a Planned Parenthood clinic that only provided medication abortions, not surgical ones, by requiring medication abortion providers to meet hospital-like facility standards.
- Banning private insurance coverage of abortion, with no exceptions for fetal anomalies or for nonfatal maternal health conditions.
When Trump chose Mike Pence as his running mate he sent a strong signal to the pro-life movement, which had been wary about Trump’s record on abortion, that he would take their side. And from Trump’s promises to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade to his recent reinstatement and massive expansion of the global gag rule, it’s clear that Pence will have a strong influence on reproductive rights policy in the White House.