republican debate

Pence on gender-affirming care: ‘We love you but wait’

  • Pence emphasized his belief in freedom of religion and conscience
  • He argued against the promotion of 'gender ideology' in elementary schools
  • Pence stressed importance of shielding kids from life-altering decisions

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(NewsNation) — Former Vice President and presidential candidate Mike Pence reiterated his position on gender-affirming care Wednesday, saying “we love you but wait” during an emotional exchange with a woman working with children who identify as transgender.

“I hear your heart and I am moved by your emotion. I truly am,” Pence said to social work professor Melissa McCollister, who was visibly upset while delivering her question during a town hall hosted by NewsNation.

Pence has said he would support a national ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors. 

“If there was a move in the Congress to protect children from this radical gender ideology and to ban chemical or surgical transition treatment for kids under the age of 18, you bet I would support it,” Pence told the Des Moines Register.

McCollister asked: “What is your policy plan to protect the transgender community, specifically the Black and Brown trans women, from historically high levels of violence?”

In response, Pence expressed his commitment to safeguarding the rights and protection of all Americans, but acknowledged McCollister’s differing perspective.

“I’m going to see to the protection of every American and the rights of every American,” he said. “But whether that’s that squares with my values or not, and I’m a Bible-believing Christian, I have a particular view on these matters. And, and you have a different view of those, perhaps.”

NewsNation contributor Johanna Maska says there is a disconnect when Pence discusses freedom as it relates to the COVID-19 vaccine and LGBTQ rights.

“I think there are a lot of people in the country who just want their rights to be respected and he talked about that with Operation Warp Speed, saying he didn’t want there to be a vaccine mandate,” Maska said. “But on abortion and on LBGTQ rights, it was different. He had a position where he said he would be the person to best make that decision. That’s the disconnect that people are over in politics. They want it to be a free nation and to hear these different things, people waffling, I don’t think it makes sense to people.”

Pence further emphasized his view that adults have the freedom to make their own decisions, including transgender individuals.

“But I hope you also hear my heart on this for me,” he continued. “What adults do in their lives, decisions that they make, including transgender adults is one thing. But for kids under the age of 18 … there’s a reason why we don’t let you drive until you’re 16. In the state of Indiana, you can’t get a tattoo until after you’re 18. You can’t drink until after you’re 21. That’s because we understand that kids don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions.”

Pence has made the comparison of gender-affirming care for minors to rules on getting tattoos in the past.

The Tampa Bay Times, called out Pence’s reference, saying, “tattoos are an aesthetic choice, while most medical organizations consider gender-affirming care medically necessary and even lifesaving.”

Pence argued against the promotion of “gender ideology” in elementary schools and emphasized the importance of protecting children from life-altering decisions.

“I think at the end of the day, look, the idea that we are telling young, impressionable kids, that little boys that they can become girls or little girls that they can become boys. I just think is wrong,” Pence said. “I’d like to put my arm around any one of those young people and just say we love you. But wait, wait until you reach an age of majority. Wait until you have a better idea of who you are. And then live the life that you want to live in this free country.”

McCollister works with neglected LGBT youth as young as 5 years old and called Pence’s policy regarding LGBTQ youth “appalling.”

“To hear somebody tell me that it’s not OK for young children to make decisions about their gender identity and to ask their school officials for support, protection and help is appalling,” she said.

McCollister said young children should have the right to seek support, protection, and help from their school officials regarding their gender identity.

McCollister said that 15 transgender and gender nonconforming individuals had been murdered in 2023, with the majority being black and Latinx transgender women.

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