It has been said that no one person hates Planned Parenthood and abortion rights more than Indiana Gov. (R) Mike Pence. When Donald Trump selected him as his running mate he sent a clear message to women and pro-choice supporters everywhere – your reproductive health is not yours to own. And while Trump has made his fair share of negative comments against abortion and limiting women’s reproductive choices, it is really his running mate who has fanned the flames of war on abortion rights.
Thankfully, Virginia Sen. (D) Tim Kaine wasn’t about to let him have a pass during last night’s debate.
Kaine, a practicing Catholic who has been open about his own personal reservations with abortion, emphasized that while “We can encourage people to support life…That’s what we ought to be doing in public life: living our lives of faith or motivation with enthusiasm and excitement, convincing each other, dialoguing with each other about important moral issues of the day. But on fundamental issues of morality, we should let women make their own decisions.” And he furthered questioned “why doesn’t Donald Trump trust women to make this choice for themselves?”
When Pence tried to deflect the issue by declaring that Trump had misspoke because “he is not a polished politician” and that he and Trump would never support legislation that “would punish women who made the heartbreaking choice” to have an abortion, Kaine was having none of it.
Instead, he took him to task for his record – and it is frightening to say the least. Pence has spent his political life fighting against abortion and reproductive health rights for women. As a House congressman he co-sponsored a bill that would force a woman to undergo an ultrasound, even if medically unnecessary, and have the doctor describe the fetus if only no more than to try to shame her into not going through with the procedure. He also signed into law a bill requiring doctors to offer their patients the remains of the aborted fetus, would prohibit a woman from obtaining an abortion if the fetus showed signs of a disability, and made it legal to hold doctors responsible for wrongful death if a woman had an abortion performed based on the fetus’ race, gender or a disability if only to scare doctors into refusing women their legal right to an abortion. Part of that law even required all fetal tissue to be cremated or buried, regardless of how far along, or not along, that the pregnancy was and placed the financial burden on the woman.
His anti-woman crusade doesn’t stop there. He also implemented restrictive measures in Indiana regarding access to healthcare on a much wider scale. Pence’s fight to defund and delegitimize Planned Parenthood has been one of his most visible and extreme anti-woman movements to date. In 2011 he pushed an amendment through the House to defund Planned Parenthood (thankfully this was blocked by the Supreme Court). After he became Governor in 2013 he cut funding for Planned Parenthood in half, forcing the largest provider of reproductive and preventative healthcare to close five of its clinics. Not one of these clinics performed abortions but, instead, provided crucial STD, HIV, and cancer screenings for low-income communities. Is it any wonder then that the county in Indiana most affected saw and an immediate increase in people who tested positive for HIV?
There’s no question that Trump is a menace and embarrassment when it comes to responsible governance and American democracy whenever he opens his mouth or proposes some cockamamie draconian policy. His nationalistic, pro-white messages have led to a normalization of racism, sexism, misogyny, and bigotry at a level that we haven’t seen in decades and it’s something that will need to be address.
But it is seasoned politicians like Pence that cause me real fear. Fear that my body will not be mine to govern. Fear that I will be forced to make health decisions not based on medical facts but the religious principles of another person. Fear that discrimination based on gender will be integrated into state and federal laws. Fear that our country will slide backwards; toppling the progress we have made to ensure that we are a fair and equal society. If Trump is elected to the presidency than Pence and his policies will be elected as well.
When Kaine pushed back and stated that Pence should live his life based on his own “moral values, but the last thing government should do is to have laws that would punish women who make reproductive choices,” I wanted to cheer.
“This is the fundamental difference between the Clinton-Kaine and the Trump-Pence ticket,” he said, and I couldn’t agree more. The risks couldn’t be higher.