Republican presidential candidate Mike Pence said Wednesday in Iowa that he would support a national ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors.
"If there was a move in the Congress to protect children from this radical gender ideology and to ban chemical or surgical transition treatment for kids under the age of 18, you bet I would support it," Pence told the Des Moines Register.
While attempts at federal legislation have been limited, 19 Republican-led states, including Iowa, have passed laws to prohibit transgender people under 18 from accessing transition-related medical care, such as hormone blockers, cross-sex hormones, or gender-affirming surgeries.
The American Medical Association, American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend providing transgender kids with gender-affirming medical care. Medical professionals in Iowa told state lawmakers that these treatments can be life-saving for transgender children.
In an interview after his Ankeny campaign kickoff, Pence said he would support a national ban for minors but said adults "have every right to live how they want to live."
"But the fact that you have a radical gender ideology that's been afoot even here in Iowa in public schools, I think, has been very harmful to our kids," he said.
Pence has previously criticized a Linn-Mar school district policy that allowed transgender students in seventh grade or beyond to request accommodations, such as using different pronouns, without requiring parental consent.
In a CNN town hall Wednesday evening, moderator Dana Bash pushed Pence on whether his support for "parents' rights" extends to a parent's decision to provide their transgender child with gender-affirming medical care. Pence responded that the state has "the obligation to see to the safety and health and well-being of the people."
Bash asked Pence what he would say to a transgender child who feels targeted by laws that bar them from medically transitioning.
Pence said he would put his arm around the child and their parents, and tell them that he loves everybody and to "just wait." He said there's a reason that 18 is the legal threshold for many things in the U.S.
"You just don't really know what you want. You don't know who you really are," Pence said. "It takes time to become an adult and figure that out."
Republicans in several red states have intensified their focus on LGBTQ-related issues, exploring bans on drag shows, prohibiting discussion of gender identity or sexual orientation in schools, and legislating bathroom access for transgender people.
So far, the battle has been waged primarily in state legislatures, with few attempts at nationwide legislation.
The Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest gay rights organization, issued a "state of emergency" Tuesday over anti-LGBTQ laws passed across the U.S.
"The multiplying threats facing millions in our community are not just perceived — they are real, tangible and dangerous," HRC President Kelley Robinson said. "In many cases, they are resulting in violence against LGBTQ+ people, forcing families to uproot their lives and flee their homes in search of safer states."
Mike Pence on COVID-19: 'Unconscionable' to mandate vaccines
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has criticized former President Donald Trump, arguing he gave too much authority to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pence, who led Trump's coronavirus task force, told the Des Moines Register he will "always be proud of what the American people accomplished during the worst pandemic in 100 years."
"I marveled at the heroic efforts of healthcare workers, of scientists in laboratories developing medicines and vaccines, and also of businesses that really stepped up and made it possible for our hospitals, healthcare workers, and the American people to have the resources they needed to meet the moment," Pence said.
But he criticized Democratic governors who closed schools "against our advice," and President Joe Biden for requiring military members and federal employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Most of the mandates expired last month when the national public health emergency ended.
"The decision to take a vaccine ought to be up to every individual and every family," Pence said. "Mandating vaccines would have never happened under our administration."
Mike Pence says he's praying for Trump: 'My faith requires me to forgive'
As he launched his campaign Wednesday, Pence spoke about his actions on Jan. 6 — and his refusal to use his ceremonial role in presiding over the electoral count to overturn Joe Biden's 2020 presidential win.
Pence said Wednesday he has prayed that Trump would "see that he had been misled about my role" on that day.
"The president continues to hold the view that I had authority that I did not have under the Constitution," Pence told the Register. "And I’ll always believe, by God’s grace, we did our duty that day."
Trump criticized Pence for failing to act, and when rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, searching for Pence, Trump failed to call them off for hours.
Pence said during his campaign rally Wednesday that Trump's actions should disqualify him from being president again.
“I believe that anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States,” he said. “And anyone who asks someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be president of the United States again.”
Pence told the Register he has prayed for Trump often in the last two years, and he will continue to do so.
"My faith requires me to forgive. I had hoped the president would come around on that issue someday," Pence said. "I still hope he would."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mike Pence says he would support federal ban on trans care for kids