Read more of Rewire.News’ coverage of CPAC 2019 here.
Vice President Mike Pence and other senior Trump administration officials promoted the president’s anti-choice agenda at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd at the conference on Friday morning, Pence touted anti-choice restrictions including the “global gag rule” and drew raucous applause for a law signed by Trump allowing states to restrict state Medicaid funds from going to Planned Parenthood. “Life is winning in America once again,” he said in the speech before taking aim at pro-choice Democrats. “But for all the progress we’re making, tragically, at the very moment that more Americans than ever before are embracing the right to life, leading members of the Democratic Party are embracing a radical agenda of abortion on demand.”
Pence falsely accused Democrats of supporting “infanticide,” referencing an out-of-context quote from Virginia’s embattled governor, Ralph Northam. “Just four short days ago, Democrats in the Senate—including every Democratic senator running for president—voted against a bill that would prevent newborn babies that survived failed abortions from being killed,” he said, referring to the failed Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which is based on the anti-choice myth that doctors are committing infanticide as a form of abortion.
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Erica Sackin, senior director of communications for Planned Parenthood Action Fund, expressed frustration with the misinformation peddled at CPAC this year in a statement Thursday. “Speakers at CPAC are delivering tired lies, dangerous ideology, and offensive misinformation about abortion and women’s health care as part of their destructive agenda to take away women’s autonomy and end access to safe, legal abortion,” said Sackin. “Let’s be clear: There is no basis in truth or medicine for any of the comments we heard today from CPAC speakers. It’s women who pay the price when politicians use these lies to push policies that shut down clinics and cut off access to care.”
A common refrain in the first two days of the gathering of prominent conservatives was the claim that Trump is the “most pro-life president in American history.” Pence, White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway, and Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser—a Trump ally who gave a speech Thursday morning praising the president—all made a version of the claim.
At her CPAC session, Conway tied the administration’s anti-choice stance to its approach to the opioid epidemic, citing the importance of treating neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a set of symptoms that babies may experience after being exposed to a drug in utero.
“One in 100 babies born in this country are already exposed or chemically dependent on some type of drug or substance,” said Conway of the condition. “That’s 150 babies each day struggling to take their first breaths. And since we already have the most pro-life president in American history—just let me get that in there—this is a natural extension of that, is trying to help these newborns.” But as Rewire.News has reported, mothers of babies born with NAS have been criminalized in the United States just for taking a drug prescribed and monitored by their doctors.
U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson also commented on abortion in a panel discussion Thursday. Carson, a former brain surgeon, recounted an alleged incident with a patient in which he claims to have talked her out of having a later abortion. “I remember there was a young woman who came to me and she was 33-weeks [pregnant], and the child had been diagnosed with a congenital abnormality. And she was on her way to Kansas to get an abortion, and no one in this area would do it at that late stage. I talked her out of it,” he said to applause from the CPAC crowd.
Carson was a vocal anti-choice advocate on the campaign trail in the 2016 GOP presidential primary.