Mike Pence’s Views On Planned Parenthood Spell Bad News For Reproductive Rights
Update: On Friday via one simple tweet, Donald Trump confirmed Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is his vice presidential running mate.
Earlier: On Thursday, news broke as reported by Reuters that Donald Trump's potential vice president nominee is Mike Pence, the current governor of Indiana; as such, interest in Pence has spiked accordingly, including his stance on reproductive rights. Prior to becoming governor of Indiana, he was arguably one the most conservative members of Congress, so what are Mike Pence's views on Planned Parenthood? Unfortunately, they spell bad news for reproductive rights.
(The Trump campaign has not confirmed Pence as the potential VP nominee; tweeted senior communications adviser Jason Miller, “A decision has not been made by Mr. Trump. He will be making a decision in the future and will be announcing his Vice Presidential pick tomorrow at 11 am as planned.")
Pence has been at odds with Planned Parenthood throughout his political career. As a Congressman, he sponsored the bill to defund the organization which was introduced in 2007; it failed initially, but in 2011, the House approved the amendment. Furthermore, in 2010, Pence requested a Government Accountability Office report to see how much money clinics which also provide abortion services received from the federal government. While federal law prevents government funding from paying for abortions, Planned Parenthood and organizations like it do receive funding for other services they provide; however, Pence hoped that by cutting funding overall, it would also make it more difficult for Planned Parenthood to provide abortions. "What’s clear to me [is] if you follow the money, you can actually take the funding supports out of abortion," he said to Vox in 2011. "We then have a much better opportunity to move forward to be a society that says yes to life."
Also during 2011, Pence spoke out in support video material from anti-abortion group Live Action, which alleged that Planned Parenthood assisted with sex trafficking and provided abortions to underage girls. Although the videos did lead to the firing of at least one clinic manager, the videos are believed to have been doctored. Said Stuart Schear, PPFA vice president for communications, in a press release at the time, "If a multistate sex trafficking operation is in place, those responsible must be pursued to stop the exploitation of girls and young women. If these visits are part of a 'dirty tricks' campaign, they must be condemned. Falsely claiming sex trafficking to health professionals to advance a political agenda is an astoundingly cynical form of political activity."
However, Pence believed the videos to be reason enough to defund the entire organization, and The Huffington Post reported his comments on the matter back in 2011:
The recent release of an undercover video exposing duplicity and potential criminality by an employee of Planned Parenthood is an outrage. Every American should be shocked that an employee of the largest recipient of federal funds under Title X has been recorded aiding and abetting underage sex trafficking. ...The time to deny any and all funding to Planned Parenthood is now. In the wake of yet another scandal involving Planned Parenthood, I urge Congress to move the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act to the floor for immediate consideration.
2011 — although prior to Pence's time as governor of Indiana — also saw the Indiana state legislature pass a bill that removed funding for Planned Parenthood. A federal judge blocked the law, but the state still managed to cut various monetary sources for Planned Parenthood which resulted in the closure of four Planned Parenthood facilities — facilities that were instrumental in providing care to rural communities, particularly with regards to HIV testing and information. Pence assumed office in 2013 and in 2015, he declared a statewide HIV epidemic, which was tied to the closure of the four Planned Parenthood facilities.
In March 2016, Pence signed a bill banning people from seeking abortion if the fetus is projected to have a disability. The controversial bill, known as HB 1337, requires pregnant people to listen to the heartbeat of their fetus at least 18 hours prior to the scheduled procedure; it also requires then to arrange a funeral or cremation of their aborted fetus of "any gestational age."
Critics of the bill noted that fertilized eggs are sometimes expelled during menstruation without the menstruating person knowing, and pro-choice supporters protested the shocking new law by keeping the Governor informed on all aspects of their bodies. The hashtag "Periods for Pence" kept the governor updated on the menstrual cycles of those protesting the bill.
Donald Trump defended Planned Parenthood in a debate earlier this year, a defense with which Pence's stance on the organization would seem to be at adds. If Pence is, indeed, confirmed as Trump's running mate, will Trump's platform change? Only time will tell — but when it comes to reproductive rights, it doesn't look good.