ROCK HILL, S.C. ― Former Vice President Mike Pence, a likely candidate to seek the presidency in 2024, said Thursday he hopes the five justices named in a draft majority opinion have the “courage of their convictions” to overturn the case that created a constitutional right to abortion.
Pence was speaking to several hundred congregants at Lakewood Baptist Church for a National Day of Prayer service, and his call came after asking for prayers for all federal elected leaders and members of the Supreme Court.
“And let’s especially pray that the five justices listed in the majority opinion leaked this week will have the courage of their convictions to right a historic wrong,” he said to loud applause.
To reporters afterward, Pence said he hopes the expected decision gives the country “a fresh start on life,” and suggested that he would not support a national law banning abortion, should Republicans take control of Congress this autumn.
“The decision by the Supreme Court will not only overturn Roe versus Wade, but it will return the question on this profound moral issue to the states and the American people where it belongs,” he said. “I really do believe when it comes to issues that are closest and nearest and dearest to American people like the sanctity of human life, that those are best decided by the people and their elected representatives.”
He declined to answer a follow-up question regarding a federal law applying everywhere, but said that he would, if the court overturned Roe, push for state laws restricting abortion. “We’ll be working in states around the country to advance the cause of life once they do,” he said.
Several hours later at a fundraising dinner for the Carolina Pregnancy Center in Spartanburg, Pence again told reporters that abortion bans should be done at the state, not federal, level. “State governments closest to the people I think are best equipped to fashion legislation advancing the sanctity of life and where people can have a fulsome debate about such a profound moral question,” he said.
Pence has been an outspoken abortion opponent for decades, and, as vice president, was his former boss’s emissary to anti-abortion groups. He has continued that advocacy since leaving office last year, with high-profile speeches and even a friend-of-the-court brief from his nonprofit group in the Mississippi case that appears likely to reverse the constitutional protection for abortion created by Roe v. Wade.
Pence had scheduled the trip well before a leaked draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe was published by Politico this week, according to his aides. The visit is his fifth to South Carolina since leaving office.
South Carolina plays a key role in the GOP nominating process and has historically been a place where social conservatives do well, although in 2016 that pattern was broken by former President Donald Trump. Despite Trump’s recent support for abortion rights and his personal history with women, he won the state comfortably over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Cruz, in particular, had aggressively courted evangelical voters since the start of the campaign.
Pence has not declared he is running for president, but is taking the steps ― raising and spending money from a nonprofit advocacy group; helping candidates in their races for the coming midterms; visiting early voting states ― traditionally taken by candidates who run for their party’s nomination.
A former congressman from Indiana and then governor of the state before joining Trump as his running mate in 2016, Pence incurred Trump’s wrath last year when he refused to go along with Trump’s scheme to overturn his 2020 election loss. Trump had wanted Pence to rule that results from a half dozen states Biden had won were invalid because of “massive fraud” and to simply declare Trump the winner.
Pence, though, announced just as Congress was to start its ceremonial duty of certifying the election on Jan. 6, 2021, that he had no authority to do as Trump wanted.
Trump then accused him of not having “the courage” to overturn the election for him, which in turn led to many in Trump’s mob that was assaulting the Capitol to start chanting “Hang Mike Pence” as they searched for him.