As President-Elect Donald Trump prepares to take the White House, so too will his running mate Mike Pence prepare for the vice presidential seat. Many are asking what, if any, real power Pence — who has garnered considerable controversy of his own, independent of Trump — will have in the White House, particularly on social issues. For one, how much say does Mike Pence have on abortion?
This is probably a good time as any to be reminded of the role the vice president plays in the United States government. While many people focus on the fact that the vice president is the first in line to become president should anything happen, they still wield a certain amount of political power on their own. The vice president is the top of the Senate, and in the event of tied votes on legislation, it's their vote that breaks the tie.
Other than that, how the vice president spends their time is mostly at the discretion of the president. Sometimes this permits a vice president to focus on a specific set of policies. The current vice president, Joe Biden, has spent a lot of his term working toward the Cancer Moonshot, and was appointed the first-ever White House Advisor on Violence Against Women.
The issues that have been important to Pence throughout the campaign are likely to resurface once he's in the White House alongside Trump: among them, the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Backed by a predominantly Republican Congress, it's more than just a possibility that Roe v. Wade could be overturned, rendering decisions about abortion legality back to the states. At least, that's been Trump's plan — whether he will try to enforce a national ban is uncertain. Both Trump and Pence have gone on record saying that they oppose abortion, and Pence went a step further by saying, “I’m pro-life and I don’t apologize for it. We’ll see Roe vs. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.” Which sounded more like a threat than a promise.
In his home state of Indiana, where he's Governor, Pence introduced legislation regarding the productions of conception after an abortion that had many claiming he was requiring women to have funerals for miscarried or aborted fetuses. This wasn't exactly true, according to Snopes: Pence's legislation would require products of conception to either be interred or cremated, however, the parents would not have been required to be present.
Although, the bill did indicate that forms related to the interment or cremation would leave a spot for "a name," which could be left blank, and information regarding the parents' identities would be redacted. And while it may not have stipulated that parents be present, the bill would require the parents to pay for the costs if they chose for "final disposition" in a place other than their healthcare facilities preference. Additionally, there's the whole issue of treated an aborted fetus — which, according to the law and biology (and not religion), is not a person — as though it is a person, which casts the personal decision of the woman having the abortion in a false light.
While Pence signed the bill into law, it was halted by U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt before it was allowed to go into effect. If a bill was introduced into the U.S. Senate, however, and did not meet opposition, it could hypothetically be passed — particularly when you recall that even if the vote was tied, Pence would be the deciding vote. Judge Pratt found the law to be unconstitutional, infringing on the reproductive rights of women. But if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, the argument against bills that would have previously trampled women's right to choose would have a much harder time holding up.
Pence has also been actively lobbying to defund Planned Parenthood for about as long as he's been in politics: in 2011, he said in an interview with Vox, "If Planned Parenthood wants to be involved in providing counseling services and HIV testing, they ought not be in the business of providing abortions. As long as they aspire to do that, I’ll be after them."
And given Pence's new position, he'll now be able to do so from the top of the U.S. government.