Though the GOP has roundly rejected medical science and facts to push measures designed to erode abortion access, Vice President Mike Pence claimed that the “steady advance of science” was aiding the anti-choice crusade when he spoke Friday before the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
Pence lauded President Donald Trump’s move to reinstate the anti-choice “global gag rule” restriction, also known as the “Mexico City Policy,” as proof that the administration is “in the promise-keeping business.” Trump’s 2016 campaign penned a letter to anti-choice activists and organizations urging them to back his candidacy and promising that his administration would work to implement a laundry list attacks on abortion rights, should he enter the White House.
The gag rule, which prohibits foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) receiving U.S. family planning aid from providing abortion care or information about the medical procedure, has led to clinic closures, the hindrance of HIV prevention efforts, and cutbacks in family planning programs. The anti-choice policy caused abortion rates to rise when it was implemented by Republican administrations. Trump’s restriction may expand beyond previous versions of the policy by including all “global health” programs in the ban.
Pence promised the anti-choice marchers that the Trump administration would “work with Congress to end taxpayer funding for abortion and abortion providers, and we will devote those resources to health-care services for women across America.” The Hyde Amendment already ensures that federal funding does not go to abortion care. Like Pence, conservatives often push community health centers as an alternative to Planned Parenthood, but experts say those clinics could not fill the gap created by defunding the reproductive-health care provider.
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Though Pence urged anti-choice supporters to practice “compassion,” during his time as governor, Purvi Patel was convicted and sentenced to prison under the state’s “feticide” law for what prosecutors said was a self-induced abortion. She has since been released.
Indiana, with Pence as governor, had one of the country’s highest infant mortality rates. He signed numerous anti-choice measures, such as unnecessary ultrasound requirements for abortions and medically unnecessary admitting privileges laws.
Pence’s address before the anti-choice rally marks the first time a sitting vice president has attended the annual event.
Just before his address, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway similarly referenced the role of “science” in the abortion debate.
“Science and medicine have joined religion and morality in causing many Americans to rethink just how fragile and how triumphant human life truly is,” Conway said. “Look at a sonogram, meet a thriving toddler who was born at 24 weeks, and who, with proper medical intervention, goes on to have a long and healthy life.”
Conway has spent at least two decades as a strident anti-choice advocate, frequently taking to the media to promote discredited and outright false claims about abortion. She supports measures such as Republicans’ unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban based on the unsupported claim that a fetus can feel pain at this point in gestation. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that these laws “are not based on sound science.”