This has probably been the most consequential and important two weeks of Mike Pence’s vice presidency.
He has not only defended his wife Karen from blatant religious bigotry but also more clearly defined and clarified the consequences and importance of the foundational nature of religious liberty and conscience in the United States.
He has delivered what is surely one of the most important pro-life speeches given in Washington in the last decade as the keynote speaker at the annual March for Life Rose Dinner which was packed to overflowing with 1,500 people from all 50 states and around the world.
Earlier that same day, he came to the National Mall to introduce President Trump’s remarks to the March for Life’s 46th annual gathering. He received a huge outpouring of support from more than a hundred thousand Americans standing in front of him.
And following their defense of infanticide from both New York’s and Virginia’s governors in the space of a few days, the vice president emerged as the most articulate, passionate defender of the sanctity and dignity of each person regardless of age or condition.
As a direct result of this now-national infanticide debate, the vice president helped open a sometimes-dormant debate about whether Down Syndrome Americans also have a constitutional right to be born.
As a capstone, Pence penned a widely-circulated column for National Review which eloquently set out the stakes for human life in our ongoing, national debate about human dignity and the cause for life at whatever stage, from birth to natural death.
Through it all, Americans have seen the vice president much more clearly, and his unique combination of erudition and passion have raised his national profile in a remarkable manner.
Mike Pence is to America and the 21st century what William Wilberforce was to the British Empire and 18th century England: A champion of the most important civil rights issue of his time –the pro-life movement.
For Wilberforce, the issue was the abolishment of the slave trade and the reformation of manners. For Pence, it is about a reset in the public square about the implications of abortion in America which has evaporated 63 million Americans in its cold maw since the Supreme Court by judicial fiat imposed the procedure on all 50 states in 1973.
On the national stage, Pence has no peer. He is with probity using this unique confluence of events to help animate and better define a cause that will meld him to fellow pro-life Americans for the rest of his life, and theirs.
The added bonus is that he loyally serves a President who, in personnel and public policy matters related to human life, has been a stalwart and unwavering defender — unstintingly keeping his campaign promises of hewing closely to the pro-life narrative and as recently as this week reiterating the consequences of late-term abortion in an echo of one of the most famous presidential election debates on that topic ever.
Pence has been a stalwart of the pro-life movement for decades.
From the beginning of his House tenure, in which he would eventually become third in GOP leadership, and with no exceptions, he and his wife Karen were deeply involved in the pro-life cause. After that first House victory, the entire Pence family became regulars at the January March for Life rally — even in those years with bitter winds, icy sleet, and snowfall. They affirmed in their three young children that the cause of human life was among the most important reasons he had entered public life.
That passion and commitment has not only not wavered, but also it has grown, widened, and deepened across 20+ years in public life. In all 50 states, pro-life leaders (which form a formidable community) know Pence on a personal, often first-name basis because he has spoken at their lunches and dinners; taped greetings for their gatherings; lent his voice to their cause in large and small ways; and in each and every way, has made it clear that he is one of us.
He has been unwavering, tireless, and a gifted communicator and friend. He is also a person of personal magnanimity and grace; it is always about widening the circle for life.
When he was the keynote speaker for Focus on the Family’s 40th anniversary celebration in Colorado Springs in 2017, that part of his speech devoted to the human life issues resonated more powerfully with the 1000+ guests than almost any other part of his remarks.
In the history of the pro-life movement since 1973, Vice President Pence is now part of a small pantheon of leaders who have become historic figures because of their leadership and coalition strategies: the late Rep Henry Hyde of Illinois; Rep Chris Smith of New Jersey; U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah (whose early contributions to the pro-life cause are almost forgotten); and former U.S. Senator James Buckley of New York, now in his 90s, who first introduced the Human Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That is a rarified group.
The late Pope John Paul II famously distinguished the “culture of life” from “the culture of death”; he posited that distinction was the proximate standard for good or evil in the public arena, and that the debate would only increase in a rapidly secularizing era. He was sage.
Vice President Pence has more than risen to the occasion in the last month; he is making history as the prospect, legacy, and fate of the infamous Roe decision looms larger and larger in the American conscience.