Would Pence Be Better for America Than Trump?

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Mike Pence at the vice presidential debate. Eric Segall writes that when he was a member of the House of Representatives, Pence conducted a war against Planned Parenthood. Jonathan Ernst/reuters

This article first appeared on the Dorf on Law site.

Donald Trump is certainly terrible, but Mike Pence may well be worse.

Whereas Trump wears his Neanderthal sexism on his sleeve, slobbering over women wherever he slinks, Pence has an actual history of advocating for and signing horrific anti-women legislation and being notoriously anti-science (actually, anti-21st-century).

Folks certainly don’t need an additional reason to vote against Trump, but if they do, keeping Pence from ever again holding an elected position at the federal level provides the strongest of justifications.

Pence’s career-long crusade against equality for women actually began before he held public office. As a talk radio host in the late '90s, Pence wrote an op-ed about seeing the movie Mulan with his children.

According to Pence, the Disney movie, about a young girl who becomes a successful warrior, was thought up by “some mischievous liberal at Disney [who] assumes that Mulan’s story will cause a quiet change in the next generation’s attitude about women in combat and they just might be right.”

Pence thought it ludicrous that despite “her delicate features and voice, Disney expects us to believe that Mulan’s ingenuity and courage were enough to carry her to military success on an equal basis with her cloddish cohorts.”

He concludes with these thoughts about the relationship between the sexes: “Many young men find many young women to be attractive sexually. Many young women find many young men to be attractive sexually. Put them together, in close quarters, for long periods of time, and things will get interesting. Just like they eventually did for young Mulan. Moral of story: women in military, bad idea.”

My moral: Pence is the most sexist film critic in history.

As a member of the House of Representatives, Pence conducted a one-man war against Planned Parenthood. He sponsored the very first House bill to defund Planned Parenthood and kept at it obsessively until it passed the House in 2011.

He said at the time, "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."

He also fought for a federal personhood bill called the Life at Conception Act, which would mandate that life begins at conception for all 50 states and millions of American women.

And just to add more cruelty and 18th-century values to his résumé, Pence also co-sponsored a bill that would have redefined rape, preventing federal funds from paying for abortion except in cases of “forcible rape.”

As governor of Indiana, Pence has advocated for and signed eight anti-abortion laws in four years. In addition to trying to make it as hard as possible for women to be able to pay for abortions, Pence signed a truly cruel bill that prohibited abortions if the woman’s decision was based on the race, gender or disability of the fetus, and applied criminal punishments to doctors who assisted in any such abortion.

Imagine being pregnant and told that your fetus has a serious fetal abnormality, and now learning that if you make the decision to abort, you may well be breaking the law and your doctor may go to prison. Thankfully, and mercifully, a federal court has already enjoined the law from taking effect.

Pence has also advocated against LGBTQ rights.

Despite being warned again and again that a purported “religious liberty” bill was actually a “discriminate against gay people” bill in disguise, Pence signed the law in March 2015.  As a member of Congress, he supported a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, saying he wanted to protect “God’s plan,” and opining that “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.”

Pence felt so strongly that gay people shouldn’t get married that he signed a law in 2013 as governor making it a felony for same-sex couples to apply for a marriage license. This man is not only against same-sex marriage, he is against people who are in favor of same-sex marriage. In other words, he is a classic bigot.

I could go on and on, but to even pretend to be able to catalog all of Pence’s anti-gay, anti-women past would be disingenuous because I would need around 10,000 words (at least). But I would be committing columnar malpractice if I didn’t also mention that not only does Pence not believe in evolution, of course, but he also has “impeccable political evangelical credentials, having chaired the Republican Study Group, a coalition of conservative House Republicans,” according to a Christian website.

In other words, and to be crystal clear, despite what the media is concluding from Pence's moderate debate behavior, the man is an extreme right-wing politician even by right-wing conservative standards. He is, quite simply, an extremist.

There may be some doubt about what policies Trump would support as president, but there is none about Pence. He is vehemently and openly anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-science, anti-women and even, apparently, anti-Disney.

As I said at the outset, Trump is terrible, but Pence may well be worse.

Eric Segall is the Kathy and Lawrence Ashe Professor of Law at Georgia State University.