Indiana Governor Mike Pence could be the next vice president of the United States, if he edges out the other names on Donald Trump’s rapidly-shrinking VP shortlist—but he’s probably not the guy to solve Trump’s “women problem.” That’s because Pence has supported, sponsored, and signed some of the country’s most extreme anti-abortion legislation in the past decade.
In March, Pence signed a bill that, among other restrictions, bans abortion sought because of a fetal anomaly like Down syndrome and requires abortion providers to bury or cremate fetal tissue. Indiana is the only other state besides North Dakota to ban abortion motivated by fetal anomaly—a provision that a federal judge has already deemed unconstitutional.
It was a bill so extreme and so hastily-passed that, as AP reported, some Republican lawmakers in Indiana were even opposed to it.
In his statement on the bill, Pence said, “I sign this legislation with a prayer that God would continue to bless these precious children, mothers and families.”
After it was signed into law, Hoosier women began calling the governor’s office and, as NPR reported, leaving him detailed messages about women’s health issues—like abortion and menstruation—since the governor seemed to be taking such an avid interest in them. The campaign spread quickly on social media under the hashtag #PeriodsForPence, drawing national attention to the stringent state law in the process.
But Pence’s opposition to reproductive rights goes back a lot further than early 2016. In fact, his anti-abortion bona fides could help stabilize Trump’s often-tempestuous relationship with the pro-life movement.
During his decade-plus in the U.S. House of Representatives, Pence voted for strict anti-abortion measures while state legislators back home were busy turning Indiana into the seventh-“most protective” state in the country, as ranked by the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life. In 2011, long before the current controversy over Planned Parenthood’s legal donation of fetal tissue, Pence sponsored an amendment to prohibit any federal funding whatsoever for the women’s health organization.
This came after three attempts in three legislative sessions to keep federal Title X funds away from any organization that provides abortion, as Politico reported.
“Sadly abortion on demand is legal in America. This is about who pays for it,” Pence said in an impassioned speech on the floor of the House in support of the Pence Amendment. “Nobody is saying that Planned Parenthood can't be the leading advocate of abortion on demand in America but why do I have to pay for it?”
The Hyde Amendment already prohibits federal funding from being used for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.
Pence went on to say, “I long for the day that Roe v. Wade is sent to the ash heap of history, when we move past the broken hearts and the broken lives of the past 38 years.”
At the time, Pence’s laser focus on Planned Parenthood even put him at odds with some GOP leaders, as Politico noted in an article that referred to his efforts as a “war” and a “one-man crusade.”
He took his animus against abortion—and especially Planned Parenthood—back home to Indiana after becoming governor in 2013.
That same year, he signed legislation requiring abortion clinics that provide pill-based medical abortion to meet the same standards as surgical abortion facilities. The language in the bill was general but, as Rewire reported, it only affected one clinic in the state: a Planned Parenthood center in Lafayette that only provided medical abortions.
Two years later, after undercover videos produced by anti-abortion extremists showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the practice of fetal tissue donation, Pence said on conservative talk radio that “every Hoosier should be appalled at what has come forward as allegations in this video.”
“I’m deeply troubled by it,” he added. “It is my obligation as governor of the state of Indiana to make sure that this not happening in Indiana.”
Even though Pence didn’t succeed at tearing down Planned Parenthood, all of his hard work has paid off: He has maintained a 100 percent rating from the anti-abortion National Right to Life Committee, making him an ideal potential running mate for an unpredictable Republican presidential nominee who once called himself “very pro-choice.”