Will Pence help Trump win over women voters?

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has a track record of being tough on abortion. Will that matter to women voters?

Evan Vucc/AP
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., during a campaign event to announce Pence as the vice presidential running mate on, Saturday, July 16, 2016, in New York. Donald Trump introduced Pence as his running mate, calling him "my partner in this campaign" and his first and best choice to join him on a winning Republican presidential ticket.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, now officially Donald Trump's running mate, may help deliver the socially conservative and evangelical voters who originally supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. But Governor Pence is going to have a harder time recruiting women voters – a constituency that Mr. Trump has struggled to attract throughout his campaign, say political analysts.

Pence does not poll very well with women. Even in his home state of Indiana, female voters are ambivalent at best: 41 percent of women approved of Pence’s performance as governor and another 41 percent disapproved. And it isn’t difficult to see why.

Earlier this year, Pence signed one of the toughest state abortion laws to date. Indiana law bans health clinics from performing abortions due to disability, race, sex or ancestry of the fetus, and subjects clinics to wrongful death civil liabilities if abortions are performed for any of those reasons. Indiana law also requires that women have an ultrasound 18 hours before an abortion and that aborted and miscarried fetuses be buried or cremated.

Many women also objected to the Indiana law due to the fact that women frequently miscarry without realizing it, making that particular stipulation impractical at best.

“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.

Pence has also made repeated attempts to cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood. When in Congress, Pence threatened to shut down the federal government in both 2011 and 2013 over funding for Planned Parenthood. Five Planned Parenthood clinics have been shut down in Indiana during his time as governor.

“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, according to the Washington Post. “Donald Trump just sent a message to the women of America: Your health and your lives are not important.”

Pence’s track record with the LGBT community is similarly confrontational. In addition to being opposed to gay marriage, Pence also signed a religious liberty law in 2015, which prior to being re-written, allowed business to deny service to customers on the basis of their sexuality. Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, even referred to Pence as “the face of anti-LGBTQ hate in America.”

“When Mitt Romney took extreme positions on women’s health in 2012, it led to the largest gender gap in history – with women, especially women of color, propelling [President] Obama to victory,” Deirdre Schifeling, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, told the Dalton Daily Citizen. “Attacking women’s health is not only terrible for women in this country, but it’s a failing political strategy.”

But not all women feel this way, particularly those who are anti-abortion.

“Mike Pence is a pro-life trailblazer and Mr. Trump could not have made a better choice,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. Ms. Dannenfelser told The Washington Post that in choosing Pence as a running made, Trump has affirmed the pro-life promises he made earlier in the campaign.

An April 2016 Gallup poll showed that 70 percent of women have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, giving him a larger gender gap than any other candidate.  

In a way, Trump’s outward sexism has raised the profile of women’s issues among voters. And with Hillary Clinton, a strong and accomplished woman, as his competition, the 2016 election could offer a platform for discussions about the state of women in America.

“The general election will be a moment where women’s opinions and issues are front and center in a way they never have been before,” Christine Kelleher Palus, professor of public administration and dean of graduate studies at Villanova University in Philadelphia, told The Christian Science Monitor in May. “The nature of the exchanges between the candidates will reinvigorate conversations about feminism and how we perceive women leaders in today’s complex and ever-changing world.”

And Trump watchers say that it won't be Pence's job to attract women voters. That assignment falls to Trump's daughter, Ivanka. She'll be speaking at the Republican National Convention this week. 

“There’s no better platform for Ivanka Trump to make the case for her father and gender equality than the Republican convention," GOP strategist Ron Bonjean told The Hill. "This is where Republicans are supposed to come together as a party behind the Republican nominee. Having a message like that to millions of voters would be extremely helpful.”

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