Politics & Policy

Pence Mockery Syndrome

Indiana governor Mike Pence (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty)
The Indiana governor’s critics use silly means to protest a serious law.

The Indiana governor’s office is currently fielding a deluge of phone calls from activists with “Periods for Pence.” Alas, the campaign has nothing to do with punctuation.

Last month, governor Mike Pence signed into law House Enrolled Act 1337, which added new provisions to Indiana’s existing abortion laws. Among other things, the new law prohibits abortions obtained on the basis of “race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, or diagnosis or potential diagnosis of the fetus having Down syndrome or any other disability”; it augments the “informed consent” provisions currently on the books by adding new information to that which a facility must provide to a woman seeking an abortion; and it adds a requirement that fetal remains from a miscarriage or abortion be cremated or interred.

It’s primarily that last measure that has prompted “Periods for Pence,” which is swamping the governor’s office with phone calls informing him about each caller’s reproductive cycle. The creator of the “Periods for Pence” Facebook page has been transcribing her calls:

Me: “I need to get a message to the Governor that I am on day three of my period. My flow seems abnormally heavy, but my cramps are much better to–”

Them: (seriously annoyed and trying to keep their voice down, but not quite succeeding) MA’AM, WHAT IS IT THAT I CAN HELP YOU WITH?

Me: Oh, I don’t need your help, I just wanted to keep Governor Pence informed of my reproductive cycle, since he seems so concerned.

The Facebook page explains that “fertilized eggs can be expelled during a woman’s period without a woman even knowing that she might have had the potential blastocyst in her. Therefore, any period could potentially be a miscarriage without knowledge.” Their solution is to give the governor’s office regular updates on their periods, to make sure they won’t be prosecuted. Another example:

Me: “Good morning. I just wanted to inform the Governor that things seem to be drying up today. No babies seem to be up in there. Okay?”

Them: (sounding strangely horrified and chipper at the same time) “Ma’am, can we have your name?”

Me: “Sure. It’s Sue.”

Them: “And your last name?”

Me: “Magina. That’s M-A-G-I-N-A. It rhymes with–”

Them: “I’ve got it.”

The Facebook page has 40,000 “Likes.” Vox calls it an “epic trolling effort.” The New York Times did a write-up. Apparently, this is what passes for wit on the pro-abortion Left.

#share#The law’s opponents depict a doomsday scenario in which the law — variously described as “terrible” (Jezebel), “outrageous” (MTV), “dangerous” (Self), and “horrifying” (Vox) — is used to jail women who miscarry at home, then fail to dispose of the remains properly. But there is no credible reason to believe that this law will be used to dig through women’s trash cans, and the burdens of the new provisions generally fall on abortion providers, not prospective mothers.

The clear intent of the law is not to jail women who miscarry; it’s to discourage abortion.

The clear intent of the law is not to jail women who miscarry; it’s to discourage abortion. HEA 1337 is an attempt by Indiana’s legislators to codify a moral consensus that lawmakers perceive in their state: namely, that a fetus is more than a clump of cells, and so fetal remains are more than medical waste. Since it’s possible that the “product of conception” might be a person, women should be discouraged from making a decision about it lightly. To the extent possible, Indiana is saying, err on the side of life.

Obviously, many people disagree. They believe a fetus has no moral claim to life, or that it does, but not until a later point in a pregnancy, or that it’s a person with a moral claim but one whose claim to life is subordinate to the mother’s claim to bodily autonomy. Fine. They can evangelize for those positions, and they can try to amend or to repeal the law, and they can try to unseat the legislators who they believe are misrepresenting the state. At least they’re grappling with the root issue.

RELATED: No, Women Are Not ‘Punished’ for Having Abortions

But the Periods for Pence types aren’t. They ignore the question that is at the heart of the abortion debate and idiotically pretend that there is a cabal of men in this committee or that legislature trying to impose power over women’s reproductive systems. The result is never “hilarious”; it’s tiresome. It’s also disingenuous: The Indiana senate, which passed the bill 37 to 13, and the Indiana house, which passed the bill 60 to 40, are not “concerned” with women’s “reproductive cycles”; they’re interested in human life, and in protecting it wherever possible. That’s a legitimate, and good, use of the state’s power. The only people in this debate obsessed with reproductive organs are the ones who are too stupid, or too dishonest, to grapple with the real issues directly.

— Ian Tuttle is a National Review Institute Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism.


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