The long-running US debate over abortion took center stage in Wednesday night’s presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Trump disagreed with Clinton over Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that made abortion legal nationwide, saying he would seat justices who would overturn the law. “I am pro-life, and I will be appointing pro-life judges,” Trump said.
Trump’s views on abortion mirror those of his vice presidential running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, who has made his state a leader in laws aimed at restricting abortion.
“Indiana has become a bit of a bellwether state on abortion, a little more extreme than other states in pursuing restrictive laws,” state law analyst Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion laws, told BuzzFeed News. And other states, she added, have modeled their own anti-abortion laws after Indiana’s example.
At the vice presidential debate two weeks ago, Pence justified his stances with a Biblical argument made widely in anti-abortion circles. “I would tell you that, for me, the sanctity of life proceeds out of the belief, that ancient principle, that where God says before you were formed in the womb, I knew you.”
His debate performance may have underplayed his pathbreaking role in the U.S. anti-abortion movement, Nash added. On Pence’s watch, Indiana passed six laws to restrict abortions.
About 7 in 10 evangelical voters — historically strong anti-abortion voters — support Trump, according to an Associated Press poll. And that’s no doubt partly because of his running mate’s record on social issues, including his 2015 “religious freedom” bill that would have allowed business to discriminate against LGBT people (until he backtracked), and his long record against abortion.
“Gov. Pence is devoted to protecting the unborn and their mothers,” Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter told the anti-abortion news outlet Life News, when Trump picked him for the vice presidential slot in July. “Even before becoming the state’s top executive, Gov. Pence demonstrated his willingness to fight for the protection of life in a meaningful way.”
Here are the most significant ways Pence has sought to restrict abortion in Indiana, and nationwide:
1. As a U.S. Representative for Indiana from 2001 to 2013, Pence led efforts in Congress to deny federal funds to Planned Parenthood for health screenings for cancer and other illnesses, because its clinics also perform abortions.
The fight that Pence started has since become a central focus of the most conservative Republicans in Congress, who in 2015 nearly shut down the federal government over Planned Parenthood funding, a battle that led to the resignation of the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner of Ohio.
2. Also while in Congress, Pence co-sponsored several “personhood” bills that would make abortion illegal nationwide.
These bills, which did not pass, said that citizens’ Constitutional protections begin at an embryo’s fertilization. They also would have outlawed birth control methods such as the pill and IUDs.
3. In 2013, as Governor of Indiana, Pence signed a law that blocked doctors from prescribing the abortion pill, RU-486, to women through telemedicine.
The law requires an in-person consultation, which is difficult given that Indiana has only 12 abortion clinics.
Now, 18 other states have similar laws, seen as a way to make it harder for women in rural counties to get the abortion pill.
4. That same law required that women receive an ultrasound before an abortion.
She also has to certify in writing on a specific state form if she does not want to hear the fetal heartbeat or see any images.
About a dozen states now have similar laws, and 25 states have some abortion regulations involving ultrasounds.
5. In 2014, Pence signed a law barring insurance plans from covering abortions except in the case of rape, incest, or a severe health threat to the woman.
Similar laws are now in place in 33 states.
6. Last year, Pence signed a law requiring that every doctor’s office that performed more than five abortions a year be regulated as an “ambulatory surgical center.”
In practice, meeting this standard would be so costly — requiring construction of at least one dedicated operating room — that most practices would cease performing abortions.
The Supreme Court struck down a related Texas law this year, saying it placed an “undue burden” on the Constitutional right of women to an abortion.
7. This year, Pence signed a law preventing Indiana women from having an abortion if their fetus carries genetic defects.
That law is now on hold, after a federal judge ruled, ”a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy.” North Dakota recently followed in Indiana’s footsteps with it own similar law.
8. A different part of the same law required fetal tissues to be buried or cremated by a funeral home, rather than disposed of at the hospital.
This law — which is also in limbo thanks to the judge’s injunction — would require that abortion remains be handled by funeral home personnel, adding to the cost of abortions. It would effectively prevent the donation of fetal cells to medical research.
And it would require that a women who sought an abortion after learning of a “lethal fetal anomaly” certify in writing that she had been given a state brochure about hospice care for dying infants. Other states, including Louisiana, Arkansas, and Georgia, also have these so-called “funeral” laws.
About 8,000 abortions take place every year in Indiana, according to state estimates, a 20% drop from 2011, when the state's abortion rate was already less than half the national average.
Many of these laws push the political conversation away from the health of the woman, and ”toward punishing or shaming them,” Andrea Miller, the president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, told BuzzFeed News.