Vice President Mike Pence has been a terrifying figure on the issue of women’s rights for quite some time. Now, he holds even more power than he did as Governor of Indiana, and his agenda to limit women’s reproductive rights has not changed.
In early 2016, then-Governor Pence and the Indiana state legislature passed House Bill 1337, a law that, had it not been blocked by a federal judge, would have enacted a number of controversial and intrusive restrictions on abortion. Abortions sought because of a fetus’s gender, race, or disability diagnosis would have been made illegal. The use of fetal tissue for research, including for understanding the incredibly harmful Zika virus, would also have been prohibited. Luckily, this bill was struck down, and Pence was not allowed to meddle with the bodily rights of the gender to which he does not belong.
In response to this restrictive bill, Indiana women began the “Periods for Pence” Facebook campaign, which rallied women to call or tweet Pence the details of their menstrual cycles, since he had made his interest in their reproductive systems overtly clear. “You should really let him know, since he’s so concerned,” posted the anonymous creator of Periods for Pence. If Pence is so interested in regulating women’s reproductive rights, then he certainly would also be interested, was the somewhat humorous thinking, in learning the details women participating in Periods for Pence had to share with him.
“I’m pro-life and I don’t apologize for it,” Pence said to supporters on the campaign trail, promising that he and President Donald Trump would “send Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs.”
While I accept his right to be unapologetically anti-abortion, I want to know what Pence thinks that gives him the right to impose his personal beliefs and opinions on American women and their reproductive rights. It is fine for him to believe that life begins at conception and must be preserved at all costs, but his ideas are dangerous if they propel him to limit bodily rights of women. If Pence chooses to use his position of power to translate his beliefs into abortion laws that will affect and even harm many women, especially since the main idea behind Roe v. Wade was the right to privacy, he has crossed a line.
Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, remarked during the 2016 presidential campaign that Pence would not make a better candidate than Trump.
“Trading Trump’s violent language for Pence’s devastating policy proposals is a horrifying substitution,” Richards said.
Indeed, Pence’s goal of limiting or eliminating federal funding for Planned Parenthood would certainly be devastating. Abortions are only one of the numerous services that Planned Parenthood offers women. Other services include cancer screenings, STD testing, flu vaccines, anemia testing, physical exams, and more. Cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood would, in turn, limit the health care services on which a multitude of women. Yet this proposition does not seem morally wrong to anti-abortion Pence, even though his actions may harm many women, again because of his personal beliefs.
Pence’s election as the nation’s second-in-command has emboldened the anti-abortion movement, as seen last week with the passing of a bill in Oklahoma that would require a woman seeking an abortion to first obtain the written consent of the fetus’s father. The author of this bill, Representative Justin Humphrey, made a statement that “one of the breakdowns in our society is that we have excluded the man out of all of these types of decisions.” He said that, in his eyes, women are the “hosts” of fetuses that they have “invited in.” This is an absurdly demeaning and insulting piece of legislation that has provoked outrage from all over the country. Women have objected to being called “hosts” for fetuses, and reproductive rights groups have expressed concern that women in domestically abusive situations would be forced to seek the consent of their spouse to receive an abortion.
Men like Pence and Humphrey are empowered to make decisions regarding women’s bodies and health based on their personal beliefs rather than what would actually be beneficial for women. The patriarchy’s controlling of women’s lives is becoming more prevalent than ever in the current administration, and this trend will continue unless it is challenged at every turn. Laws should not be passed because of the personal views of those in power if they will negatively affect a large part of the population.
Featured Image by Meg Dolan / Heights Editor