Donald Trump has already had problems making inroads with female, gay and minority voters. His newly announced vice presidential pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, could make things even worse.
Pence has endorsed controversial legislation on abortion, gay rights and immigration both in Indiana and while in Congress, where he was consistently ranked as one of the most right-leaning members of the House. He attempted to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding, supported a measure that made English the nation’s official language and signed one of the nation’s strictest abortion laws earlier this year.
Pence is almost certain to appeal to socially conservative and evangelical voters who have been skeptical of Trump, a brash, thrice-married New Yorker with little appetite for fighting the culture wars. With Pence, Trump brought onto the ticket his inverse: a social-issues warrior with a long, very conservative track record.
Democrats — including presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — women’s health advocates and gay rights groups wasted no time pouncing on Pence, whom they described as extreme, anti-woman and anti-gay.
“A Trump-Pence ticket should send a shiver down the spine of women in this country,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “Donald Trump just sent a message to the women of America: Your health and your lives are not important.”
A Washington Post-ABC News poll last month found that 77 percent of women had an unfavorable impression of Trump, including 62 percent who saw him in a “strongly unfavorable” light. Trump’s negative ratings among women are more than 20 percentage points higher than 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney received at any point in that year’s campaign.
In a May NBC News/Marist poll, 41 percent of Indiana women surveyed said they disapproved of Pence, and the same number said they approve of his job performance.
Earlier this year, Pence signed one of the nation’s farthest-reaching abortion laws, which bans abortions of fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome or any other disability or because of the race, sex or ancestry of the fetus. The measure subjects abortion providers to disciplinary sanctions and civil liability for wrongful death for performing an abortion for any of the reasons stated in the law.
The law also mandates that fetuses that are miscarried or stillborn in a medical facility be buried or cremated and that women have an ultrasound at least 18 hours before a scheduled abortion.
A judge struck down portions of the law prohibiting women from seeking to abort fetuses due to specific circumstances and its mandate on disposing of fetuses before it was scheduled to take effect July 1. The Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the ultrasound provision last week.
“This law attempted to do exactly what Supreme Court precedent said could not be done: invade a woman’s privacy rights by preventing her from deciding whether to obtain a pre-viability abortion,” Ken Falk, the legal director of the Indiana ACLU, said in a statement.
The law provoked a firestorm in Indiana and across the country. Some women said the law doesn’t account for the fact that many women have miscarriages and don’t know it.
In one attention-grabbing effort, opponents tweeted, emailed and called Pence with graphic descriptions of their menstrual cycle. Many used the hashtag #periodsforpence or wrote on a Facebook page with the same name. On Friday, women started contacting Trump in a similar effort they billed as “Tampons for Trump.”
“Pence’s election meant R.I.P. to women’s rights in Indiana,” Clinton’s campaign wrote in a news release.
In Congress, Pence embarked on a crusade against Planned Parenthood, filing the first legislation that called for barring the organization from receiving federal funding. In both 2011 and 2013, Pence played a central role in trying to shut down the government over funding Planned Parenthood, gambits that did not work.
“If Planned Parenthood wants to be involved in providing counseling services and HIV testing, they ought not be in the business of providing abortions,” Pence told Politico in 2011. “As long as they aspire to do that, I’ll be after them.”
Some have tied the animus Pence and the Indiana legislature have toward Planned Parenthood with an outbreak of HIV in rural Indiana last year that was driven by intravenous drug use. Five rural Planned Parenthood clinics, which provided HIV tests, have shut down in the state since 2011 because of funding cuts, although Planned Parenthood officials at the time said they couldn’t make a direct link between the closures and the outbreak.
Representatives for Trump did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement issued after portions of the abortion law were struck down, Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks said the governor “will continue to stand for the sanctity of human life in all stages, for the compassionate and safe treatment of women faced with an enormously difficult decision, and for the rights of citizens to determine appropriate medical safety standards and procedures through their elected representatives.”
The choice of Pence was praised among pro-life advocates. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said Trump affirmed the pro-life promises he made earlier in the campaign by choosing Pence.
“Mike Pence is a pro-life trailblazer and Mr. Trump could not have made a better choice,” Dannenfelser said in a statement.
The addition of Pence tacks the GOP ticket far to the right on gay issues as well. Trump had been hailed by some as the most gay-friendly Republican nominee in history; he has long spoken with sympathy toward gays and lesbians. Pence has long opposed gay marriage and sparked a firestorm by signing a “religious liberty” law last year that many viewed as anti-gay.
The law was designed to give businesses and individuals legal protections against claims of discrimination. It sparked an outcry from gay rights activists and companies including Apple, Eli Lilly and Twitter. The NCAA, which is based in Indianapolis, threatened to move its events, and artists canceled concerts.
Pence soon backtracked, and the law was amended to include a provision that prohibits business owners from denying services to gay and lesbian patrons — a measure that made few on either side happy.
“It really didn’t help anyone,” said Brad Bell, the founder of Southern Indiana Equality. It made the state of Indiana go backwards 50 or 60 years, and it made people across the country laugh at the state of Indiana.”
Others were more pointed in their assessment of Pence. Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called Pence “the face of anti-LGBTQ hate in America.”
Clinton immediately started fundraising off Friday’s Pence announcement: “Mike Pence signed an anti-LGBT law, opposed by everyone from NASCAR to Purdue University, that cost his own state $60 million in lost business,” the campaign texted supporters minutes after Trump formally named Pence.
Like Trump, Pence has taken conservative views on immigration, calling for increased border security and strict enforcement of immigration laws. He is also against allowing undocumented people a pathway to citizenship.
“Trump choosing Pence as his running mate is, again, only doubling down to be the most divisive campaign in American history,” said Martin Garcia, director of campaigns for the Latino Victory Fund.
In 2011, Pence also co-sponsored a measure that would make English the nation’s official language.
When Trump called for a ban on Muslims coming into the United States in December, Pence called the proposal “offensive and unconstitutional.” But the Indiana governor later issued an order blocking Syrian refugees from coming to the state. A federal judge blocked that order, writing that it “clearly discriminates” against people fleeing from the country.
Scott Clement in Washington and Jenna Johnson in New York contributed to this report.