Pence, 2016 hopefuls back 20-week abortion ban

In this file photo taken on Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, talks to the media after naming Rep. Suzanne Crouch R-Evansville, Indiana State Auditor at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Mike Pence and a group of other possible Republican presidential contenders have thrown their support behind a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other possible Republican contenders wrote to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, in support of his proposed ban, which is based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that stage.

“It is for these reason that I wholeheartedly support (the legislation) and join you in urging Senate leadership to allow a vote on this important piece of pro-life legislation,” Pence wrote in the April 3, 2014 letter.

Although Pence said research supports the notion that a fetus can feel pain at that point, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said a rigorous 2005 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that it’s unlikely a fetus perceives pain that early, adding, “no studies since 2005 demonstrate fetal recognition of pain.”

The Christian Broadcasting Network reported on the letters Tuesday. Pence sent his letter of support April 3, but it was not released publicly until The Associated Press asked for a copy Tuesday.

The proposal is unlikely to go anywhere in the gridlocked Congress and is somewhat of a moot point for Indiana, where state lawmakers enacted the 20-week ban in 2011. But it is a key barometer for White House hopefuls looking to curry or maintain favor among religious conservatives.

“What’s not surprising is that these governors and these senators support this measure; it’s wildly popular,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which supports the proposal.

“What is different, and what is important, is that there is a coalescing around one piece of legislation that the pro-life movement and pro-life leaders and elected officials think is a top priority,” she said.

Tammy Lieber, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Indiana, said Tuesday night she couldn’t comment because she hadn’t seen the letter or proposed legislation.

Pence has said he’s considering a run for the White House in 2016, but has not made any decisions yet — similar to most other potential candidates. Dannenfelser, who pushed Pence to seek the White House in 2012, said he would be a strong candidate if he jumped in the 2016 race.

Pence has strong ties among social and religious conservatives from his time in Congress, but has shied away from hot-button issues like abortion since becoming governor. Instead, his two loosely-defined legislative agendas have focused primarily on taxes, job training and early childhood education.

However, Pence is set to headline a fundraiser Thursday for the Indiana Family Institute, one of the strongest voices for religious conservatives inside the Statehouse.

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