COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — As he positions himself for a possible White House bid, former Vice President Mike Pence is returning to the early-voting state of South Carolina, slated to give the keynote address at a fundraising banquet for a Christian pregnancy center that's become a regular stop for GOP presidential hopefuls.
In May, Pence will speak at a dinner on behalf of the Carolina Pregnancy Center, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by The Associated Press. The organization, which executive director Alexia Newman describes as a “pro-life ministry,” offers Christian counseling and adoption services, and free supplies to women who opt to have babies following unplanned pregnancies.
South Carolina holds the first presidential primaries in the South, and candidates of both major parties typically spend more than a year in the state ahead of those votes, introducing themselves and trying to secure support.
Republican candidates often use South Carolina's conservative voters as a proving ground to test their “pro-life” mettle. Nearly a year ago, Pence chose the fundraiser of another conservative Christian nonprofit in South Carolina as the scene of his first public address since the end of the Trump administration.
That dinner for Palmetto Family, which lobbies for what it considers to be “biblical values,” such as heterosexual marriage, gave Pence a backdrop for some of the issues for which he long advocated as an Indiana congressman-turned-governor, such as restrictions on abortion and support for the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that ensured a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.
Carolina Pregnancy Center, the host of Pence's May return, is based in the state’s conservative northwest and has frequently played host to Republicans seeking their party's nomination. In the 2016 cycle, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Dr. Ben Carson and businesswoman Carly Fiorina all visited the Spartanburg facility.
It's the kind of political issues trip that Pence has made with regularity during political seasons. In September 2020, he visited a Florida pregnancy center, highlighting his anti-abortion and conservative Christian viewpoints.
A month later, he met with abortion opponents at a women's clinic in Raleigh, North Carolina, also participating in a political rally featuring candidates who oppose abortion and calling the Democratic Party “the party of abortion on demand."
Since leaving office, Pence has worked to construct a post-White House operation that includes a political advocacy group, speeches, fundraising and shoring up relationships that could help him, should he choose to run for president in 2024.
Much of that has included efforts at deepening his appeal to his white Evangelical Christian base, as well as Trump supporters and those who may have been fond of former President Donald Trump’s policies, but not his style. Speaking at a September forum devoted to demographics and family values in Budapest, Pence told attendees that he was hopeful the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court created during his and Trump’s administration will soon overturn abortion rights in the United States.
Ahead of U.S. Supreme Court arguments in an abortion case, Pence in November called on the high court to “make history” and overturn Roe v. Wade, calling the 1973 ruling a “misguided decision” that has “inflicted a tragedy not only on our nation, but on humanity."
By MEG KINNARD Associated Press
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