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Meet Trump VP Pick Mike Pence, Crusader Against Safe Legal Abortion and LGBTQ Rights

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We look at the record of Donald Trump and his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, on LGBT rights and restricting women’s access to reproductive healthcare with Dawn Laguens, executive vice president and chief experience officer of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. In 2015, Pence signed into law the highly controversial anti-LGBT Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which gave businesses license to discriminate against LGBT people. The law caused a nationwide backlash. Dozens of companies and professional sports teams and leagues, including the Indianapolis-headquartered NCAA, threatened to boycott Indiana. Apple CEO Tim Cook slammed the law, likening it to the Jim Crow laws of the American South. Ultimately, Pence was forced to enact a revision specifying the law does not authorize anti-LGBT discrimination. As governor, Pence also oversaw a cut in Planned Parenthood funding in the state and signed legislation, since blocked, that would have restricted abortion access statewide. In 2011, he threatened to shut down the entire government if Congress didn’t defund Planned Parenthood.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, “Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency.” I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting live from Cleveland, Ohio, covering the Republican National Convention, inside and out, from the corporate suites to the streets to the convention floor. We turn now to look at Donald Trump’s running mate.

DONALD TRUMP: I’ve found the leader who will help us deliver a safe society and a prosperous, really prosperous society for all Americans. Indiana Governor Mike Pence was my first choice. I’ve admired the work he’s done, especially in the state of Indiana.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Donald Trump introducing his running mate, Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana, who was first elected to Congress in 2000, then was elected governor in 2012. He spoke after being introduced by Donald Trump.

GOV. MIKE PENCE: People who know me well know I’m a pretty basic guy. I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order. Now, while I’m currently—I currently have the privilege of serving the state that I love, I’m really—I’m really just a small-town boy who grew up in southern Indiana with a big family and a cornfield in the backyard.

AMY GOODMAN: In 2015, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law the highly controversial anti-LGBT Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which gave businesses license to discriminate. The law caused a nationwide backlash. Dozens of companies, professional sports teams and leagues, including the Indianapolis-headquartered NCAA, threatened to boycott Indiana. Apple CEO Tim Cook slammed the law, likening it to the Jim Crow laws of the American South. Ultimately, Governor Pence was forced to enact a revision specifying the law does not authorize anti-LGBT discrimination.

As governor, Pence also oversaw a cut in Planned Parenthood funding in the state and signed legislation, which has since been blocked, that would have restricted abortion access statewide. Governor Pence has long been a vocal critic of Planned Parenthood. In 2011, as a congressman, he threatened to shut down the entire government if Congress didn’t defund Planned Parenthood.

Joining us now is Dawn Laguens, executive vice president and chief experience officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She led the successful campaign to defeat the 2011 Pence amendment.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

DAWN LAGUENS: Thanks, Amy. Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. So, talk about Governor Pence as not just the governor of Indiana, but, if he were to win, the vice president of the United States. Your response when you heard that Donald Trump had named him?

DAWN LAGUENS: Well, I was shocked that Donald Trump thought that this was a way to make gains with women, whom he’s doing so poorly with in the election, as you know, Amy. And this just sent a message nationwide that the man who’s been the leader of a crusade against women’s healthcare, against safe legal abortion, against Planned Parenthood and against LGBTQ communities is now on the Republican ticket.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about his record, and talk specifically about his attack on Planned Parenthood, your organization.

DAWN LAGUENS: Yes. I actually came to Planned Parenthood to fight the Pence amendment, as it was called, in 2011, when Mike Pence had said he wanted to take away all funding for Planned Parenthood preventive health services, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, birth control—nothing even to do with abortion at the time. But what he did is make sure that women would not be able to have access to those services at Planned Parenthood. And we were terribly shocked at his efforts.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me turn to a clip of then-Congressman Mike Pence speaking in 2011. It was the same year that a dozen Planned Parenthood clinics became the target of an undercover video sting by activist James O’Keefe and the anti-choice group Live Action. Pence used the videos as ammunition to build support for the bill to deny federal family planning funds to any organization that performs abortions, including Planned Parenthood.

REP. MIKE PENCE: It comes as a surprise to most Americans to learn that the largest abortion provider in America is also the largest recipient of federal funding under Title X. And it’s heartbreaking news this morning that Planned Parenthood of America has now been the subject of one more undercover video showing someone posing as a pimp being facilitated by employees at Planned Parenthood in how to secure secret abortions, STD testing and contraception for child prostitutes. You know, as a father of two teenage daughters, I see the video that came out this morning, I see the video that came out last week, and it’s an outrage to me that employees of Planned Parenthood clinics across the country are facilitating the abuse of minor girls in this country. It should be a scandal to every American. The time has come to deny all federal funding to Planned Parenthood of America. I’ve authored the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, which would deny Title X funds to Planned Parenthood or any other abortion provider. And Congress must act, and act now, to move this important legislation. Pro-life Americans and all Americans should not be forced to subsidize America’s largest abortion provider or to continue to provide federal taxpayer dollars to Title X clinics that engage in this abhorrent behavior.

AMY GOODMAN: So that was Congressman Pence. Explain what happened next, Dawn Laguens.

DAWN LAGUENS: Well, after Mike Pence took on Planned Parenthood and our health services, millions of people around the country rallied and said, “Wait, we depend on this care every single day.” Two-point-five million women come to Planned Parenthood year in, year out, across the country. And so, people banded together. Members of Congress said no way, shut down Mike Pence, obviously went all the way to President Obama, who finally said, “I’m going to stand beside Planned Parenthood and the care that they deliver,” and, of course, said no to defunding Planned Parenthood. But, of course, Mike Pence tried this six times. He introduced six bills to defund Planned Parenthood, in addition to backing a host of others that would have limited women’s access to their reproductive rights and health.

AMY GOODMAN: So talk about how this fits in with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, how you see it connecting. And what do you think of Governor Pence now being named as the vice-presidential nominee, the running mate of Donald Trump?

DAWN LAGUENS: Well, Mike Pence explained to us, I think, when he said, “I’m a Christian before I’m anything else,” that that was what his agenda was going to be. His version of Christianity was going to be his platform in office—not the public good, not what the Republican Party, not what people in his district or in his state wanted, but that he was going to put his personal religious beliefs before everyone else’s concerns and drive those nonstop now for a dozen years. So we have a really good idea in this country who Mike Pence is, and most people don’t like who that is and what he represents.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, not everyone. A lot of people do like him. I was spending time in the Indiana delegation last night. In our first hour of Democracy Now! today, I was speaking to an Indiana delegate, close friend of Governor Pence. But last night, one of the people I talked to was a Republican delegate from New York, Wendy Long. She’s challenging U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer for his seat in November.

WENDY LONG: It’s not attempting to be discriminatory about anyone, but in our Constitution is very clearly written protection for the free exercise of religion. Other rights are subsidiary to that right, which is enshrined directly in our Constitution.

AMY GOODMAN: So you think if a person does not think it’s right to serve a gay, lesbian or trans person, they just have that right not, for example, to cater to them in their business?

WENDY LONG: I think it depends on exactly what it is, but I think if it’s a matter of, you know, baking cupcakes or doing flower arrangements, something that’s easily done somewhere else, I think, you know, why not just go and give that service somewhere else from someone whose conscience and religion and deepest—deepest-held beliefs aren’t going to be bothered by that. And it’s not the person. Let me add, it’s not the person. I think, in the general context in which these comes up is religious ceremonies. So, if a gay person or a lesbian person comes into the bakeshop or wants to buy flowers, nobody is—nobody is talking about not selling to them. It’s more the ceremony and the religious aspect and being a part of that that’s at issue. And people try to cast that as being against an individual, which I think it really isn’t.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, if they said they didn’t feel comfortable serving a black person, do they have that right?

WENDY LONG: Well, no. And I don’t—no, absolutely not. And I don’t think that that’s—I don’t think that’s being suggested or being said. And I don’t even think it’s being suggested or said about the person, as I just explained. It’s not the individual. It’s a religious ceremony and being a part of that. Nobody is suggesting they wouldn’t serve such a person who walked into a shop and wanted to buy cupcakes. That’s just not the issue.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Wendy Long. She is the U.S. Senate challenger to Chuck Schumer, the longtime senator from New York. She’s the Republican candidate. Your response? You know, if you don’t want to buy a cupcake in this bakery, go to another bakery.

DAWN LAGUENS: Nobody thinks this is about cupcakes. Right? This is about the basic equality of all citizens in this country. And would she say the same thing if a business owner said, “I don’t want to provide a cake for a wedding between a Muslim and a Christian. I don’t want to provide a service for a black person and a white person”? Where does it end, when you start to make these distinctions when it comes to the public square, not the personal religious square?

AMY GOODMAN: And so, explain what your approach—you’re here. You’ve just flown into Cleveland. What you’re doing at the Republican convention?

DAWN LAGUENS: Yeah, I’m doing two things. One is talking to people like you, Amy, as things are being said and to let people know Planned Parenthood’s experience with Mike Pence and what we know firsthand of his record and how he has negatively affected the health of women in this country. And also I’m here to meet many Republicans who actually don’t agree with the platform. Planned Parenthood has a rich history. Many people on our boards today, many people who work for us, and many people who come to us are Republicans. And so, we’re also sending a message that Planned Parenthood is a nonpartisan organization. We’re here to say everyone should support the great work that Planned Parenthood is doing in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: We were talking about Governor Pence, but I want to go to the Republican presidential candidate, the presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, who sparked widespread outrage by saying women should be punished for having abortions if the procedure were to become illegal. This is Trump speaking on MSNBC’s Chris Matthews’ show during a town hall aired.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Should abortion be punished?

DONALD TRUMP: Well, people in certain parts of the Republican Party and conservative Republicans would say, yes, they should be punished.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: How about you?

DONALD TRUMP: I would say that it’s a very serious problem. And it’s a problem that we have to decide on.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle?

DONALD TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: For the woman?

DONALD TRUMP: Yeah, there has to be some form.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Ten cents? Ten years? What?

DONALD TRUMP: Let me just tell you—I don’t know. That I don’t know. That I don’t know.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Why not?

DONALD TRUMP: I don’t know.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: You take positions on everything else.

DONALD TRUMP: Because I don’t want to—I—frankly, I do take positions on everything else. It’s a very complicated position.

AMY GOODMAN: So that was Donald Trump speaking a while ago, months ago. He walked that back. Also at one point he was pro-choice, but now calling for women to be prosecuted, then saying he didn’t quite mean that, maybe just the doctors who perform these abortions. What is Donald Trump’s position? Has Planned Parenthood been able to pin it down?

DAWN LAGUENS: I take Donald Trump at his word that he will appoint Supreme Court justices who will undo Roe v. Wade. I look at what he’s done by choosing Mike Pence, the number one crusader against Planned Parenthood, safe legal abortion and women’s health and rights in this country. And I say Donald Trump is a danger to women and families and their healthcare and their rights.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you, Dawn Laguens, for being here, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, the man described as “the Jon Stewart of Egypt.” His name is Bassem Youssef. What’s he doing in Cleveland? Stay with us.

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Bassem Youssef, “The Jon Stewart of Egypt,” Moves to U.S. & Begins Satirizing Election Season

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