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
tracks abortion laws, told BuzzFeed News. And other states,
she added, have modeled their own anti-abortion laws after
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
a dozen states now have similar laws, and 25 states have
some abortion regulations involving ultrasounds.
Similar laws are now in place in 33 states.
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
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.
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
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
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.