Pence focuses on parental rights in Iowa events while considering 2024 run

By: - May 24, 2023 6:13 pm

Former Vice President Mike Pence attended the Republican 4th Congressional District convention in Carroll on April 23, 2022. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Former Vice President Mike Pence spoke with Iowa voters and conservative leaders at Des Moines area events this week, though he has yet to officially enter the 2024 Republican presidential race.

Pence spoke with Polk County Republicans at a county party fundraiser Tuesday, in addition to Wednesday stops at the Westside Conservative Club and a Q&A with students at Des Moines Christian School in Urbandale.

He also spoke with Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver and young conservatives in Des Moines, and held a roundtable with Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird on “parental rights” before heading to Ottumwa for a Wapello County GOP event.

In trips to Iowa, the former Indiana governor has emphasized the fight against “gender ideology,” particularly in allowing children to socially transition without the consent of their parents or guardians. In February, Pence held a rally with U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, speaking against the Linn-Mar Community School District’s “gender support plan” system that allows students to begin socially transitioning — using a different name or pronouns than what they were given at birth — without requiring the parents to be included in the conversation.

Pence’s political action committee, Advancing American Freedom, filed an amicus brief in the lawsuit challenging Linn-Mar’s policy.

His Wednesday discussion with Bird included the discussion of issues brought up by members of Moms for Liberty, a parental rights organization whose members were active in supporting measures like the “bathroom bill” and restrictions on school books that depict sex or include material of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Many of the measures he supports were top issues during the Iowa legislative session this year. In a Scripps News interview Tuesday, Pence said he supports banning transgender youth’s use of hormones, puberty blockers and surgical intervention. In March, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a ban on gender-affirming care for minors.

“This idea that we would allow children to go through either chemical or surgical transition treatment really before they’ve come of age … I’ve supported measures in my home state and around the country that would simply ban gender transition treatment for young people, and I think that’s in our children’s best interest,” he said in the Scripps interview.

At the Iowa event, Pence said it was “incomprehensible” that minors cannot get a Tylenol at school without parental permission, but were allowed to pursue transition without their parents knowing. Pence said he would fight for “parental rights to be restored in Iowa” and nationwide.

“Whatever the future holds for the Pence family, and whether you’re seeing a lot more of me in Iowa or not, we’re gonna stay in the right, stay in the fight, for parental rights,” Pence said at the roundtable.

While Pence has made many trips to Iowa in 2023, he is not officially in the 2024 race. He said he plans to make a decision in the coming weeks. But several other candidates are officially throwing their hats into the ring: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his 2024 presidential run Wednesday, and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, who announced his candidacy Monday, was in Iowa at the same time as Pence.

While he is not yet in the race, Pence thanked Iowans Tuesday for helping elect him and former President Donald Trump. He told Iowans to “give us a stander bearer” who can win the 2024 race against President Joe Biden and reverse his administration’s decisions.

“Do your part, ask the hard questions and shape the leadership,” Pence said. “… We’ll keep you posted on our plans, I promise. And remember to pray.”

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.