'Restore the sanctity of life': Pence supports forcing women to carry non-viable fetuses to term

'Restore the sanctity of life': Pence supports forcing women to carry non-viable fetuses to term
Vice President Mike Pence listens as Capt. Stacey Blurton, 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse, explains the aeromedical capabilities of the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during a visit to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, May 20, 2017. During his visit, Pence commemorated Armed Forces Day, addressing a crowd of more than 200 Airmen and their families, thanking them for their service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley Farnsworth)

Republican presidential candidate Mike Pence supports forcing women whose fetuses have zero chance of survival to carry them to term – in other words, to literally carry a fetus inside them that will not survive after birth, or might be born dead. The former Trump vice president claims he’s heard many stories of women who were told they would give birth to a baby that could not survive, but did.

“I just have heard so many stories over the years of courageous women and families who were told that their unborn child would not go to term or would not survive. And then they had a healthy pregnancy and a healthy delivery,” Pence told the Associated Press in an interview published Wednesday.

“I’m pro-life. I don’t apologize for it,” said Pence, an evangelical Christian who, in talking about abortion once said, “my faith informs my life.”

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“I want to always err on the side of life,” Pence also told the AP. “I would hold that view in these matters because … I honestly believe that we got this extraordinary opportunity in the country today to restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law.”

The AP says Pence’s “standard would force women to carry pregnancies to term even when doctors have determined there is no chance a baby will survive outside the womb.”

Pence is the only major candidate to support a six-week ban on abortion, which is often before many women even know they are pregnant. He has urged his fellow GOP presidential candidates to formally embrace at least a 15-week ban. And he “advocated pulling from the market a widely used abortion pill that has a better safety record than penicillin and Viagra.”

“Doctors disputed Pence’s characterization, saying there are conditions that are always incompatible with life and others where the chance of survival is so slim that most patients, when previously given the choice, concluded that continuing the pregnancy wasn’t worth the suffering, grief or risk,” The AP reports.

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Pence’s comments “drew alarms from obstetricians and doctors who specialize in high-risk pregnancies and say nonviable pregnancies are far more common than people realize. They range from ectopic pregnancies, when an embryo implants somewhere other than the uterus, to deadly birth defects and other severe pregnancy complications.”

“Banning abortions in these cases, doctors say, leads to outcomes that are both cruel and put women’s lives and mental health at risk,” the AP adds.

“Pence does say he has ‘always supported’ exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother, though he told an Indiana anti-abortion group in 2010 that he believed, ‘Abortion should never be legal,’ and later that it should only be legal to save the ‘life of the mother.'”

There are a number of fetal conditions in which doctors generally agree there is “truly zero probability for a healthy outcome,” including anencephaly, a severe neural tube defect in which the skull doesn’t form and the brain is exposed, said

Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine spokesperson David Hackney, who is also a high-risk obstetrician, told the AP that in the case of fetal conditions like anencephaly, there is “truly zero probability for a healthy outcome.” Anencephaly, according to he AP, is “a severe neural tube defect in which the skull doesn’t form and the brain is exposed.”

“The chances of survival are absolute zero … no matter what Mike Pence says,” Dr. Hackney said, adding that “it feels absurd” for people to be “forced against their will to carry pregnancies to term.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year, numerous reports were published exposing state abortion bans forcing women to carry non-viable fetuses to term, which Pence’s policy would support.

“An expectant Louisiana woman who was carrying a skull-less fetus that would die within a short time from birth ultimately traveled about 1,400 miles to New York City to terminate her pregnancy after her local hospital denied her an abortion amid uncertainty over the procedure’s legality,” The Guardian reported last September.

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A Texas woman was told her “fetus did not have a heartbeat and she no longer had a viable pregnancy,” The Washington Post reported last year in July. She “asked her doctor to perform a dilation and curettage, or D and C — a standard procedure to remove the fetus following a miscarriage to help prevent infection or long-term health problems.”

But “because the procedure is also used during abortions, which a Texas law had greatly restricted, the doctor did not want to perform a D and C.” The woman, Marlena Stell, “would be forced to carry her dead fetus for two weeks before she could find a provider to give her the medical intervention that physicians had denied her.”

Also in Texas, “Kylie Beaton was looking forward to having her second child later this year. Now, she’s faced with carrying an unviable pregnancy to its end due to Texas’ highly restrictive abortion ban,” ABC 7 reported in March. “According to a report from her doctor, Beaton’s baby has a rare, severe condition impacting the development of its brain, but she is unable to access abortion care in her home state.”

In April at the right-wing Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, Pence avoided giving a straight answer when asked if, as president, he would support a national ban on abortion.

“I would tell you that if I was in the Congress of the United States I would certainly support any pro-life legislation.” And while he said he believes ultimately each state will decide whether or not to ban abortion, “I don’t agree with the former president who says this is a ‘states-only’ issue.”

Pence is an evangelical Christian, “for whom the issue is deeply personal,” says the AP, adding that he “argues restricting abortion is ‘more important than politics’ and calls it the ’cause of our time.'”

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