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ICYMI: Pence Dodges Abortion Question At VP Debate After Decades of Vocally Attacking Reproductive Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, October 8, 2020
CONTACT: Planned Parenthood Votes Media Office; 212-261-4433; [email protected]
Planned Parenthood Votes Pressroom

Pence’s dodge come just days before Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a nominee who is a clear threat to our reproductive health and rights

Washington, DC — Last night, Vice President Mike Pence was asked a direct question about whether Indiana, where he previously served as governor, should ban abortion if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. And despite the vice president’s vocal, decades-long campaign against abortion access, the dangerous anti-reproductive health record of the Trump-Pence administration, and his desire to send Roe v. Wade “to the ash heap of history," he conspicuously dodged the issue. 

Pence’s about face follows similar approaches taken in recent debates by President Trump and vulnerable Senate Republican incumbents like Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). Sen. Ernst said at her last debate that the “likelihood of Roe v. Wade being overturned is very minimal,” a stark shift from  someone who signed a brief calling for the Supreme Court to consider overturning the law. And after vowing to “appoint Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade” Trump refused to speculate whether his current Supreme Court nominee would overturn the law saying, “you don’t know her view on   Roe v. Wade” despite her long record that is hostile to reproductive rights.

It seems that politicians opposed to abortion access are finally catching on to the fact that it is deeply unpopular and a losing political issue. 77% of Americans support access to safe, legal abortion. There is no state in the nation where making abortion illegal is popular. Yet Trump has nominated a judge to the Supreme Court who signed on to a full-page newspaper ad opposing abortion and referring to Roe v. Wade’s legacy as “barbaric,” despite poll after poll showing that voters do want to see Roe overturned.

As Jenny Lawson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes said last night: “Mike Pence lied about his record on health care and dodged questions about whether abortion should be outlawed because he knows he’s out of touch with the majority of the American people. Senator Kamala Harris made it perfectly clear: Trump and Pence can’t be trusted to prioritize our health and rights or keep us safe.”

This stark shift did not go unnoticed as Vice President Pence may have hoped.

  • NBC: Pence's nonanswer on abortion raises eyebrows

Asked a direct question about what he'd want his home state of Indiana to do if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Pence dodged. Pence's stance on the issue has been clear for years — he's a staunch opponent of abortion rights.

Yet, he seemed reticent to address that topic, even though Trump has repeatedly made the subject part of his attacks on Biden and Harris.

  • ABC: The Note

It was a fascinating and telling moment as Pence's staunch position on abortion is fairly well-known, but it's Democrats that know it is a winning issue for them, not Republicans, with those much-needed independent women right now. The fact that Pence was potentially more worried than eager to take a victory lap on that one says a lot about the politics around the issue, fight for suburban women and the coming hearings in the Senate next week.

  • Bloomberg: Republicans Tread Warily on Roe v. Wade Ahead of Amy Coney Barrett Hearing

In last week’s debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Trump denied Barrett’s nomination puts abortion on the ballot on Nov. 3. “You don’t know her view on Roe v. Wade,” he said. During his 2016 campaign, he vowed that Roe would “automatically” be overturned once he had made enough appointments.

And in Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate, Mike Pence declined to answer a question about whether Indiana, where he was once governor, should outlaw abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned…

 Barrett enters Monday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings with the clearest anti-abortion record of any nominee in decades. She signed a 2006 advertisement opposing abortion and wrote in 1998 that the procedure is “always immoral.” In a handful of opportunities while on the federal appeals court bench, Barrett consistently landed on the side of restricting abortion rights. Yet poll after poll shows a solid majority of the public opposes overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion rights nationwide. That includes voters in staunchly Republican states such as Georgia and South Carolina, where Republican senators are running neck and neck with Democratic challengers. At least a half dozen other incumbent Republican senators also are in peril of losing on Election Day, with Barrett’s confirmation suddenly thrust into the campaign.

Pence has twice pretended that Amy Coney Barrett is not an anti-abortion jurist. And asked specifically if he’d ban abortions if he were still governor of Indiana, and if the Supreme Court post-Amy Coney Barrett allows for such a possibility — Pence totally passed.

  • New York Times: Pence claims not to know how Barrett would rule on abortion and misrepresents Harris’s position on Roe v. Wade

Mr. Pence professed to not know how Judge Amy Coney Barrett, whom Mr. Trump nominated to the Supreme Court last month, would rule on abortion rights, but said he and Mr. Trump were opposed to them.

  • Independent: Mike Pence dodges crucial question about abortion, starts inexplicably talking about Iran instead

Rather than answer the question, Pence, who is anti-abortion, decided to talk about the former Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by a US missile strike in January this year.

  • Rebecca Traister @Rtraister: Pence completely dodging this abortion question is a big tip off that someone has informed him that keeping abortion legal is extremely popular, supported by large majorities, across this country
  • Alex Burns @alexburnsNYT: second consecutive debate in which a member of the GOP ticket declined to embrace overturning Roe and banning abortion in explicit terms, even though it is a stated goal of their party and, for one of the candidates at least, a lifelong personal cause
  • Ronald Brownstein @RonBrownstein: Pence refused to answer many questions. But worth noting that 2 he dodged most emphatically were how Trump would protect patients w/preexisting conditions & what would happen on abortion if #SCOTUS overturns #ACA & #Roe. Both issues will be in headlines all next week for Barrett.
  • Jessica Mason Pieklo @Hegemommy: This is a man who has built an entire career around enshrining his specific religious world view on the rest of us. He wants to prosecute you if you don't deliver a healthy baby to the state...And when given a chance to loudly and proudly proclaim these beliefs to the rest of the country he punted. He and other evangelicals don't actually have the courage of their convictions. They are cowards.

Pence, Trump, Ernst and other politicians opposed to abortion access may no longer want to highlight their records attacking our health and rights, but Planned Parenthood Votes will be sure voters remember in the final four weeks of the election.


Planned Parenthood Votes is an independent expenditure political committee registered with the Federal Election Commission.