SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence applauded the essence of a leaked draft opinion suggesting that the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide, predicting that the decision could have favorable impacts for anti-abortion candidates in midterm elections across the country.
“I hope and pray that the Supreme Court draft opinion will hold and become part of the law of the land, returning the question of abortion to the states and to the American people,” Pence said. “I also have no doubt that the women and men who are standing for public office at every level who have taken a strong stand for the unborn and the sanctity of life will be favorably impacted by this decision, particularly at the state level.”
Pence spoke Thursday night at a benefit for Carolina Pregnancy Center, a crisis pregnancy center in Spartanburg, part of South Carolina’s conservative Upstate. Ahead of his remarks, he toured the organization’s mobile ultrasound unit.
Earlier this week, a draft opinion leaked to Politico suggested the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide. It’s Pence’s visit was his second in a week to the early-voting state that would be key to his support among white evangelical Christian voters.
A decision to overrule Roe would almost certainly lead to abortion bans in roughly half of the country and could have huge ramifications for this year’s elections. But it’s unclear if the draft represents the court’s final word on the matter — opinions often change in ways big and small during the drafting process.
The issue of abortion has long been a centerpiece of Pence’s political life, dating to his days in Congress and as governor of Indiana. He has spent the months since the end of the Trump administration trying to position himself as a conservative who can appeal both to his white evangelical Christian base, as well as Trump supporters and those who may have been fond of Trump’s policies, but not his pugilistic style.
As he mulls a possible presidential bid, Pence has built a post-White House operation that includes a political advocacy group, delivering speeches, fundraising and bolstering relationships that could help him, should he choose to run in 2024.
“Governors, state legislators at every level, if this Supreme Court draft opinion holds, will now have a say over the issue of life in their individual states,” Pence said Thursday. “And I have a sense, as the nation is moving more and more in the direction of recognizing the sanctity of life, that they will be looking for women and men who are willing to stand up unapologetically for the cause of life this year and in the years to come.”
South Carolina holds the first presidential primary elections in the South. On Saturday, Pence spoke at commencement exercises at Columbia International University, sharing his personal faith story and telling graduates of the Christian school that “the antidote to cancel culture is freedom, so decide here and now that you will live as free men and women, and defend the freedoms that generations of Americans have fought to defend.”
During that visit, CIU President Mark Smith, who served as a faith adviser to the Trump White House, said he felt “Pence saved our nation by refusing to overturn the election on Jan 6.”
“I asked him, ‘How did you do it?’” Smith said. “I will not betray his words, but I will convey to you, character comes through.”
South Carolina would be key to Pence should be seek the presidency in 2024, with its large contingent of white evangelical conservative voters. Last year, Pence chose South Carolina as the scene of his first public speech since leaving the Trump administration, addressing a fundraiser for a conservative Christian nonprofit.
On Thursday, Pence told a crowd of more than 1,000 that supporting organizations such as Carolina Pregnancy Center, which counsels women against seeking abortions and provides them with support, needs them to continue their financial backing.
“I think we’re going to see more and more states make a greater and greater commitment to provide support for women facing crisis pregnancies,” Pence said. “I truly do believe that, when the moment comes that the Supreme Court does their job, then it’s incumbent on us to do our job.”