GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence spoke to a convention of conservative Christians Saturday, drawing loud applause for his promises that he will work with Donald Trump to restrict abortion rights and appoint right-wing justices to the Supreme Court.
“Let me be clear: People who know me well know I’m pro-life, and I don’t apologize for it,” said Pence, the Republican governor of Indiana, to the largely evangelical crowd at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, DC. “I want to live to see the day that we put the sanctity of life back at the center of American law, and we send Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history, where it belongs.”
Pence’s speech provided a stark contrast to his running mate’s address at the same summit. On Friday night, Trump asked attendees for their support in November without ever mentioning abortion or marriage. The pair of speeches reinforced this political duo’s dynamic, with Pence—a lifelong anti-abortion advocate with a legislative record to prove it—once again providing a salve for religious voters skeptical of the thrice-married, formerly pro-choice Trump.
Penny Nance, the president of Concerned Women for America, introduced Pence. She opened with an anecdote about getting a call from a reporter after Trump’s selection of Pence. She told the reporter there was one thing people needed to know: On abortion, “Mike Pence has a 100 percent Concerned Women for America voting record, and a zero percent record with the National Abortion Rights Action League,” also known as NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group.
The audience roared with applause, and Nance lavished praised on Pence’s record both as a congressman and as Indiana Governor. “Mike was a leader in Congress before most people knew Planned Parenthood was the abortion mafia,” she said, citing the deceptively edited Center for Medical Progress videos released last summer that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of fetal tissue. (So far, four congressional investigations and 12 state-level investigations have found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood.) Nance also lauded Pence’s efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, both in Congress and as Indiana’s governor. By 2014, Pence had cut Planned Parenthood’s funding nearly in half in his state, resulting in the closure of five clinics, none of which ever provided abortions.
When Pence took the podium, he sharply criticized Hillary Clinton. He cited the Benghazi investigation—a popular topic among many of the speakers. Pence also blasted Clinton’s comments at a New York fundraiser Friday night, in which she said that “half” of Trump’s supporters represented “a basket of deplorables.”
“Let me just say from the bottom of my heart: Hillary, they are not a basket of anything,” Pence said. “They are Americans and they deserve your respect.” Pence added that he hadn’t heard “that level of disdain for Americans” since 2008, when Barack Obama said that residents of Midwestern towns with high unemployment “get bitter [and] cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Pence went on to promise that a Trump administration would shore up the military, stand with Israel, and cut a variety of taxes. But soon, he turned back to abortion. Citing his own extensive record—including his funding for crisis pregnancy centers in Indiana and state legislation prohibiting women from obtaining an abortion because of the race, gender, or disability of the fetus—Pence outlined the Trump team’s plan for reproductive health access.
He promised to work with Congress to pass the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection act, a bill that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks with exceptions only for cases of rape, incest, and threats to the woman’s life. (These kinds of abortions are rare and often happen when a serious fetal disability is discovered late in pregnancy.) “We will end late-term abortions nationwide,” Pence said. The post-20-week abortion ban failed in the Senate in September 2015, but was resurrected with a hearing in March.
Pence promised to uphold the Hyde amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions, and to defund Planned Parenthood. “The days of public funding for Planned Parenthood are over when the Trump-Pence administration arrives in Washington, DC,” he said.
And finally, Pence returned to Trump’s main selling point with evangelicals: the Supreme Court. “When it comes to life and our liberties,” he declared, “Donald Trump will appoint justices to the Supreme Court of the United States who will strictly construe the constitution of the United States in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia.”