During the vice presidential debate on October 7, Vice President Mike Pence falsely claimed to not know how President Donald Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee would rule on Roe v. Wade. Trump has made the same false claim, which is meant to downplay the very real risk posed to abortion rights — a tactic right-wing media have also deployed.
Pence and Trump’s temporary deflection likely comes from the reality that an overwhelming majority of Americans support Roe and don’t want it overturned. If it weren't so popular, abortion opponents wouldn't be forced to mask their intentions and hide behind the talking point that it won't be overturned.
However, Pence has repeatedly made clear that he wants Roe v. Wade to be overturned and supports appointing judges who would do that:
- Speaking at the 2006 March for Life, an annual anti-abortion event, Pence lobbied for the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, claiming that he would “support a strict-constructionist view of the law and make it possible once and for all to end Roe v. Wade.”
- During the 2018 fight surrounding the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Pence said he wanted to see Roe v. Wade overturned but that he hadn’t “been nominated to the Supreme Court” and couldn’t say what Kavanaugh would do. Kavanaugh has since gone on to signal quite clearly his stance on abortion rights, writing a dissent during the last term that The Guardian described as being “taken by many as a clear sign that he is intent on overturning Roe v Wade.”
Pence’s commitment to appointing justices to dismantle Roe is also consistent with his long record of opposing abortion access and reproductive rights:
- When Pence was in the House of Representatives, he co-sponsored “personhood” resolutions, which called for “defining ‘personhood’ as beginning at conception,” which could overturn Roe and result in the criminalization of abortion.
- Pence signed legislation as Indiana governor in 2016 to restrict abortion access based on the false premise that some people seek abortions “based solely on a fetus's disability or genetic anomaly.”
- As governor, Pence “cut public funding” to Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana “by more than $1 million,” and “he launched an investigation of the group’s fetal tissue disposal practices after” the undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress were released -- despite the evidence Planned Parenthood engaged in no wrongdoing.
- Pence also makes no secret of his ties to anti-abortion organizations such as the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List). Politico credits the rise of SBA List during the Trump administration to President Marjorie Dannenfelser’s “ties to” Pence. This close relationship continues as Pence recently joined SBA List at an event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and wrote the introduction to Dannenfelser’s recently released book.
- At an anti-abortion event in 2018, Pence said he was confident abortion access would end “in our time.”