Mike Pence’s Abysmal Record On Women’s Issues Is As Bad As It Gets
Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has a well-deserved reputation for running his big, misogynistic mouth and proposing policies detrimental to women’s health. Fitting, then, that he should select Indiana Governor and Tea Party conservative Mike Pence for his running mate according to The New York Times’ and many other outlets’ reports Thursday. Governor Pence’s record on women’s health issues is frankly leagues and bounds more terrifying than Trump’s irritating, sexist remarks and ignorant proposals pandering to anti-choice voters.
Pence has repeatedly signed into law terrible women’s health policies in Indiana, and we’ve gotten to see their disturbing results throughout his state. It’s painful just to imagine what this would look like on a national level, which is within the realm of possibility should Trump, by some nightmarish miracle, snag the presidency.
From measures regulating abortion that he’s signed into law, to defunding Planned Parenthood and closing clinics, to refusing to support equal pay, that Pence has been a disaster for Indiana women — and would be a disaster for American women as vice president — is no exaggeration. Here’s where Pence stands on these critical women’s issues:
On Abortion Policies
Earlier this year, Pence signed a measure into law prohibiting women from having abortions because of the fetus’ race, gender, or disabilities like down syndrome, and Indiana became only the second state to enact such a measure. It’s worth noting this law, like others similar to it, offered no funding or proposals with regard to how individuals born with severe disabilities could be taken care of, in life. According to Mother Jones, regulations like this are predominantly opposed by the medical community. Even fellow Republicans, like state Representative Sharon Negele, bashed the bill, as it included “no education” and “no funding” and was “just penalties.”
Additionally, the measure holds doctors legally liable for “wrongful death” for performing abortions for any of these reasons, problematically associating abortion with murder and winding us back 100 years by once again making abortion a punishable offense. Fortunately, the law was ultimately blocked last month by the Supreme Court.
The Daily Beast reports that during his more than 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Pence repeatedly voted for strict anti-abortion measures, too, which his voting record corroborates. Unsurprisingly, he holds a 0 percent approval rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America.
While famous for allowing discrimination against the LGBTQ community, the Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, supported by Pence, could also technically enable health care providers to deny women access to abortion, much like the Conscience Protection Act being floated by Congress.
Also worth noting, Indiana University recently sued the state for restricting “academic freedom by criminalizing the acquisition or transfer of fetal tissue used for research” in the wake of controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood donating tissue to research last summer. On the surface, this doesn’t appear to be a gendered issue, until you consider how fetal tissue research, which historically led to the discovery of a cure for polio and could potentially lead to many breakthroughs today, was supported by Republicans until placed in the context of women being able to make reproductive choices.
On Access To Sexual Health Care
Pence dramatically cut Planned Parenthood funding in his state. This led to several clinics providing crucial services regarding sexually transmitted infections closing, and this led to a terrifying HIV outbreak in Scott County, Indiana.
Pence became Governor in 2013, and by 2014, state funding for Planned Parenthood was half what it had been in 2005, according to Mother Jones. Additionally, five clinics, none of which even provided abortions but tested for STIs, were closed. In their pathological hatred for the basic medical procedure of abortion, conservatives like Pence often forget how much Planned Parenthood contributes to public health aside from abortion, from STI testing to breast cancer screenings.
On Supreme Court Appointees
Indiana is one of few states that allows governors to appoint justices to the state Supreme Court, and we received a rare and telling glimpse of the kind of SCOTUS justices Pence would probably hand his support to when he appointed lawyer Geoffrey Slaughter in May. As President, Trump would have the ultimate say in who got to be a justice, and has already made it clear he’d support anti-choice conservatives. However, since SCOTUS justices have so much power in determining the outcomes of women’s health and other gender issues, it’s worth noting the kind of people Pence would endorse.
While Slaughter’s stances on abortion and other women’s health issues remain unclear, Slaughter has received high praise from radically conservative news outlet Breitbart and fellow conservatives like Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty Institute and a strong proponent for the conservative brand of “religious freedom,” aka the right to unabashedly impose anti-choice values on women.
Shackelford told Breitbart Slaughter had “an excellent reputation as a constitutional conservative who reveres the First Amendment,” and applauded his “principles.”
On Workplace Equality
Pence voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which offers women more leverage in suing for pay discrimination, three times while in Congress. While Pence was governor, the Indiana Democratic Party notes Indiana women still make 73 cents to every one dollar earned by their male counterparts, notably lower than the national average median of women’s pay compared to men’s, and at a time of record high unemployment. Additionally, women in Indiana work two out of every three minimum wage jobs offered throughout the state.
In 2014, Indiana House Democrats proposed an amendment creating a commission to look into the gender pay disparity in the state, but this attempt was blocked. Pence’s stances on paid family leave and the rights of mothers in the workplace remain unclear. However, as previously mentioned, Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he supports, technically enables employers or health care providers to deny women access to reproductive health services like abortion if they morally oppose it.
Where President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have vocally spoken out against the wage gap and also supported measures to address it, for all Trump’s big talk about how great he’d be for women, women who have worked with him share overwhelmingly negative experiences. Given his poor record on advancing workplace equality, it’s unlikely Pence would balance Trump out.