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Pence’s Iowa Strategy? Ads and Rallies Attacking Schools That Protect Trans Kids

Mike Pence’s political action committee has made moves that suggest he's planning a 2024 presidential run.

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Heritage Foundation on October 19, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

Former Vice President Mike Pence has signaled that he will likely run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, as his political action committee is planning to advertise and win over Iowa voters in the next few months, with a focus on attacking LGBTQ people in the state.

While Democrats have changed the order of their state nominating contests, Iowa remains the Republican Party’s first-in-the-nation contest for the 2024 presidential election season.

Advancing American Freedom, the PAC that Pence formed in 2021, will buy digital ads and potentially radio and television advertising as part of a more than $1 million spending campaign to promote Pence in the state. The organization will also hold rallies and canvass Iowa residents’ homes.

According to reporting from The Associated Press, the PAC will focus on attacking schools in the state that seek to provide a safe environment for transgender students, targeting one district near Cedar Rapids in particular.

Linn-Mar Community School District implemented a policy last year that would allow transgender students to request a gender support plan from their school. The policy does not require parental permission, as some students may feel unsafe at home or have parents who don’t accept them for who they are.

The school is currently involved in a lawsuit regarding that policy, as parents in the district claim it deprives them of their rights. Pence and his PAC have capitalized on the situation in order to win over conservative voters in the state, sacrificing the wellbeing of trans children in the process.

“The strength of our nation is tied to the strength of our families, and we cannot stand idly by as the radical left attempts to indoctrinate our children behind parents’ backs,” Pence claimed in a statement. “Advancing American Freedom will not rest until parental rights are restored in Iowa and across the nation.”

Pence has not officially declared himself a presidential candidate, saying he needs to discuss the issue with his family before making a decision. But his PAC’s investments in Iowa indicate that he’s leaning toward running.

Pence has a long history of introducing anti-LGBTQ legislation as a member of Congress and former governor — and his emphasis on attacking the LGBTQ community is also unsurprising given that other potential GOP contenders for president have recently employed a similar strategy.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who has not yet announced a presidential run but who is likely to do so, has backed several policies targeting LGBTQ people in the state of Florida, including the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump vowed in a video on his Truth Social account in January to pass a law declaring that there are only two genders if he becomes president again — a promise that falsely suggests that a person’s gender identity is inherently tied to their sex.

Scientists and health experts largely agree that this line of thinking is inaccurate.

“Research confirms a strong biological basis for gender identity. … Though some conservatives have a strange obsession with focusing on other elements of biology (i.e., genitals and chromosomes), it doesn’t make scientific or medical sense to give these unconscious parts of our bodies primacy over our conscious brains, where gender identity resides,” wrote Jack Turban, a fellow in child and adolescent psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine, and Jules Gill-Peterson, an associate research professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, in a joint op-ed for CNN last year.

Contrary to conservatives’ claims, gender-affirming care has been shown to be life-saving — and school policies to support transgender youth have yielded overwhelmingly positive outcomes. According to a study conducted by The Trevor Project, which used a sample size of more than 8,000 transgender and nonbinary youth across the country, the likelihood that a trans child will attempt by suicide drops by 39 percent if even one adult expresses acceptance for their identity.

A separate study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health last year, found the same positive outcomes in schools that instituted trans-friendly policies. Meanwhile, schools that were intolerant of transgender students had a negative impact on those students’ mental health.

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