Vice presidential debate: Mike Pence lays out staunch defence of pro-life policy

He said neither he nor Donald Trump would support laws that punish women who get abortion - yet Purvi Patel has just walked out of prison

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The Independent US

Indiana governor Mike Pence said that he would never support legislation that punishes women who get abortions, despite his state being one of the strictest, pro-life states in the country.

At the vice presidential debate in Farmville, Virginia, Mr Pence, Donald Trump’s running mate, said he believed in the “sanctity of life” due to his religious background, and that a society should be judged by how it protects its most "vulnerable" - the aged, those with disabilities and the unborn.

Yet Mr Pence rejected claims that he would punish women who get abortions.

"Donald Trump and I would never support legislation against women who make the heartbreaking choice to end a pregnancy," he insisted.

Mr Trump said to MSNBC in March that there should be "some sort of punishment" for women who get an abortion. He later retracted the comment and said the punishment should be focused on providers.

In Indiana, abortion is severely restricted, despite a federal law called Roe V Wade, which legalised abortion in 1973.

Indiana requires a fully licensed doctor to carry out the procedure, enforces a waiting period, consent requirements and strict facility codes.

Women are also required to pay funeral costs for unborn fetuses - a law that was passed in 2015.

Women can also be jailed. 

Purvi Patel was jailed for two decades last year for self-inducing an abortion in July 2013. She has recently filed an appeal and walked free after a judge overturned the conviction.

Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate and the senator of Virginia, insisted that women should make their own reproductive decisions.

"It’s not the role of a public servant to mandate that [reproductive choices] for everyone else," he said.

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"We support the continual right of American women to consult their own conscience, their own supportive partner, their own minister, but make their own decision about pregnancy," he said. 

"We trust American women to do that. And we don’t think women should be punished as Donald Trump said they should to have an abortion."

Mr Kaine, also a man of religious background, personally does not believe in abortion. He voted against the Hyde Amendment, a provision to bar the use of certain federal funds to pay for abortion.

"Why don’t you trust women, why doesn’t Donald Trump trust women to make that choice by themselves?" Mr Kaine asked Mr Pence.

"We should cherish the worth, the dignity, the value of every human life," the governor retorted.