Breast, Bottle, and the Beauty of Motherhood

Amie Newman

This Mother's Day, instead of lining up on one side of the breast- vs. bottle-feeding debate or another, let's question why society isn't providing mothers with more options to make the decisions mamas believe are best for them and their babies.

I had my son when I was thirty years old, ten years ago, and as green as one can be when it came to any and all things parenting related. While pregnant, I thirstily drank in every word of the handbook for hip-mothers everywhere  – The Hip Mama Survival Guide – with its list of cool songs to which to breastfeed, and 18 ways to “chill out” when your screaming baby is making you crazy. I was also given a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting and read through it somewhat suspicious of its overly chipper yet authoritarian tone (“don’t eat too many of those tasty treats!”). I perused the books of Dr. Sears and Dr. Spock for advice on breastfeeding and parenting with their practical and no-nonsense information. The Internet provided nowhere near the well of resources or communities on motherhood as one finds now so I satisfied my need for as much information as I could possibly consume mostly by way of books like these.

And with the information collected stamped into my brain, I set to work on crafting the postpartum world in which I knew my baby, my husband and I would blissfully reside. It was a perfect world to be sure (though I didn’t realize this at the time – thinking simply it was what all women experienced, right?). It was a vision that would of course be preceded by an all-natural childbirth with a loving midwife and husband at my side, and blissful days and nights of breastfeeding my newborn baby in the new, wooden rocking chair currently residing in what was to be his bedroom. What could go “wrong”?

You know where this is going, don’t you? The truth is that nothing turned out the way I thought it would. My “perfect” all natural childbirth morphed into a natural childbirth riddled with medical interventions. The days and nights following were a blur of breastfeeding trauma that included near breakdowns of anxiety and sadness over why my son would simply not feed, preferring to fall asleep upon immediate contact with my breast instead; why it sounded to me like lactation consultants were telling me one thing about how to breastfeed him, my midwife telling me another and the experienced, older women in my life yet another. I was exhausted, confused, frustrated and felt completely out of control.

The short of it: after two weeks, I ended up on medication, feeding my son formula and setting out on a path towards motherhood that worked and felt best for myself, my husband, and my child. Feeding my son a bottle, we bonded beautifully and I often experienced the authentic joy and contentment I imagined in my "perfect" vision.

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But my breastfeeding vs. formula journey was far from over. In my “first weeks” mothers’ group, the other mothers – with their discussions of shared breastfeeding difficulties and woes – seemed to look at me with a mixture of pity and contempt when I pulled out the bottle to feed my baby. The leader of the group took me aside one day and let me know it would be okay if “you don’t come to those meetings where we talk about breastfeeding challenges since it isn’t an issue for you.”

Some experiences were not so obviously ostracizing. Taking a walk one day in my neighborhood, I passed a neighbor’s house. When my son started crying she asked (and then practically begged) me to come in to nurse him so he’d stop crying before we made the rest of the walk home. I was too embarrassed to tell her I wasn’t nursing him, mumbled an excuse and power-walked back to my house where I could give him the (horror!) bottle that he so loved.

By the time my daughter came along, the clarity I experienced around childbirth and breastfeeding took me down a wholly different path. My daughter came into this world with the strength and relative ease I had always envisioned, and almost immediately nursed voraciously straight through until she was three years old (and she would have nursed longer than that had I not decided the time had come for us to bond in ways that felt less “udderly” invasive by then). Nursing her was often wonderful though, for a long time. It was a bonding experience different, though not “better,” than what my son and I had experienced, and we both loved it. Of course, the looks I received in public while nursing her openly as a baby and then as a toddler were equally as ostracizing and judgmental at times, just as when giving my son his bottle.

These memories come flooding back with the current public discussion around breastfeeding in both the media and among new mothers. The dialogue centers on the emotional, health and even mental benefits of breastfeeding for mother and child. Breastfeeding your baby promotes “better bonding”.  Breastfed babies may have higher IQs. Mothers who breastfeed may have a lower risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. And while some of this information is not necessarily new it is eliciting much more attention as of late. The spotlight has also created a springboard for many mothers, who don’t want to breastfeed, can’t breastfeed exclusively, had or have difficulties breastfeeding or who have breastfed and simply don’t buy all of the “hype” to speak up.

With my own history of breastfeeding, one might assume that I’d be strongly rooted on one side of the emerging “breastfeeding wars” or the other. Don’t breastfeed; your baby will be perfectly healthy and happy without it! Or, nurse until your child is twelve years old – it’s the only certain way to bond, ensure your offspring’s brilliance and protect against disease for yourself.

But here’s the thing. I’m not on either side of that fence. I’ve made very different choices with each child and I can tell you, as with any and all women’s reproductive health experiences, there are as many different ways to experience these situations, as there are women in the world. And while exclusive breastfeeding certainly has a multitude of benefits, not the least of which is that it’s free, when it’s possible it’s possible. When it’s doable, it’s doable. And when it’s not, there are (thankfully and gratefully) other satisfying, excellent options for women in this country.

This might sound overly simple. However, the pro-breastfeeding mantra and air of associated judgement has become overbearing and suffocating for many women who don’t or can’t breastfeed, even for women who both breastfeed and bottlefeed their babies. On the other hand, the fact that more women in this country are not breastfeeding, when they could be (and receiving immense joy and satisfaction from it as well), is a loss as well.

In “The Case Against Breastfeeding” Hannah Rosin writes that while she “dutifully breastfed each of my first two children for the full year that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends” when she had her third she thought about escaping the “prison” of breastfeeding after becoming convinced of a couple of things. First, that the so-called conclusions about the benefits of breastfeeding were too inconclusive and second, that in fact breastfeeding was not the nirvana that women were being sold:

From the moment a new mother enters the obstetrician’s waiting room, she is subjected to the upper-class parents’ jingle: “Breast Is Best.” Parenting magazines offer “23 Great Nursing Tips,” warnings on “Nursing Roadblocks,” and advice on how to find your local lactation consultant (note to the childless: yes, this is an actual profession, and it’s thriving). Many of the stories are accompanied by suggestions from the ubiquitous parenting guru Dr. William Sears, whose Web site hosts a comprehensive list of the benefits of mother’s milk. “Brighter Brains” sits at the top: “I.Q. scores averaging seven to ten points higher!” (Sears knows his audience well.) The list then moves on to the dangers averted, from infancy on up: fewer ear infections, allergies, stomach illnesses; lower rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease. Then it adds, for good measure, stool with a “buttermilk-like odor” and “nicer skin”—benefits, in short, “more far-reaching than researchers have even dared to imagine.”

Rosin might drawing a caricature, but her frustration is clear. She takes issue with what she sees as an unrealistic or incomplete image of what breastfeeding is really like for mothers – the time commitment, the physical toll, the exhausting juggling necessary for working mothers. Though she decides to continue nursing her third child, her reasoning straddles the two sides of this debate with the beauty of the uncertainty and gray areas in which most mothers’ decisions are made: 

Breast-feeding does not belong in the realm of facts and hard numbers; it is much too intimate and elemental. It contains all of my awe about motherhood, and also my ambivalence. Right now, even part-time, it’s a strain. But I also know that this is probably my last chance to feel warm baby skin up against mine, and one day I will miss it.

On the other hand, Jennifer Block, author of Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care, and a tireless advocate for maternal health writes in her article, "The Backlash to Breast is Best", that while she understands some of Rosin’s protestations (“There are some relationships that remain unclear, such as whether breastfeeding makes babies smarter or moms shed pregnancy pounds more quickly”) Rosin is offering a careless assessment of the overall clear benefits of breastfeeding:

Rosin is right that the individual risk of formula-feeding her children may be relatively small, but public health is about the collective, and among a population the risks of not breastfeeding are significant. For example, formula fed babies will have more severe diarrhea and respiratory infections. One could argue that such consequences aren’t a huge deal if they are born into families with good access to health care (like Rosin and her friends). But however treatable these ailments, they become more serious among poor families in the U.S., and it’s clear that in non-industrialized countries they cause babies to die.

The truth is they are both right. And I want more than anything for new mothers to hear this. Sometimes breastfeeding works or works well and sometimes it doesn’t. For some women it comes easier than for others and it’s okay to live in the beauty of the gray and uncertainty. Embrace the possibilities but “get zen” with what you feel you can realistically do. Yes, breastfeeding is nutritionally wonderful for your baby. It can also be an emotional high; a powerful physical relationship incomparable to anything else. But so can holding your baby in your arms, free from anxiety or exhaustion, gazing into each other’s eyes, as you nourish her with a bottle filled with formula.

The real focus should be on creating the societal support necessary for mothers to experience new motherhood as optimally as possible. Do we offer adequate paid family leave for new mothers? Do we allow new mothers respectful and comfortable spaces in which to breastfeed in public if they so choose? Do new mothers, regardless of income level, have access to the information and tools, including free formula if necessary, to make the best decisions for themselves and their babies? Right now, the answer to all of those questions is no. When instead we can answer “yes” to all of those questions, I have no doubt the breastfeeding “debate” will resolve itself to a large degree and the guilt or frustration mothers feel, along with the scrutinizing and judging, will dissipate.

Whether we breastfed our babies, fed them formula, or whipped up our own special combination of both, we are left with a human being with whom we are blessed to be able to walk through life for many years. As mamas, our relationship with our children is ever evolving and most certainly does not rest with this one decision. We have many miles to walk and many choices to make and the journey will rarely be easy, the “right” decisions rarely clear. More likely, we do the best we can with what we’ve got. If mothers can support each other in our voyages, knowing this is the real beauty of motherhood – doing our best with each individual decision – then the actual choices made become secondary to the love and intention behind them and the support received and accepted for all. 

Analysis Politics

The 2016 Republican Platform Is Riddled With Conservative Abortion Myths

Ally Boguhn

Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the Republican platform, which relies on a series of falsehoods about reproductive health care.

Republicans voted to ratify their 2016 platform this week, codifying what many deem one of the most extreme platforms ever accepted by the party.

“Platforms are traditionally written by and for the party faithful and largely ignored by everyone else,” wrote the New York Times‘ editorial board Monday. “But this year, the Republicans are putting out an agenda that demands notice.”

“It is as though, rather than trying to reconcile Mr. Trump’s heretical views with conservative orthodoxy, the writers of the platform simply opted to go with the most extreme version of every position,” it continued. “Tailored to Mr. Trump’s impulsive bluster, this document lays bare just how much the G.O.P. is driven by a regressive, extremist inner core.”

Tucked away in the 66-page document accepted by Republicans as their official guide to “the Party’s principles and policies” are countless resolutions that seem to back up the Times‘ assertion that the platform is “the most extreme” ever put forth by the party, including: rolling back marriage equalitydeclaring pornography a “public health crisis”; and codifying the Hyde Amendment to permanently block federal funding for abortion.

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Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the platform, which the Susan B. Anthony List deemed the “Most Pro-life Platform Ever” in a press release upon the GOP’s Monday vote at the convention. “The Republican platform has always been strong when it comes to protecting unborn children, their mothers, and the conscience rights of pro-life Americans,” said the organization’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement. “The platform ratified today takes that stand from good to great.”  

Operation Rescue, an organization known for its radical tactics and links to violence, similarly declared the platform a “victory,” noting its inclusion of so-called personhood language, which could ban abortion and many forms of contraception. “We are celebrating today on the streets of Cleveland. We got everything we have asked for in the party platform,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, in a statement posted to the group’s website.

But what stands out most in the Republicans’ document is the series of falsehoods and myths relied upon to push their conservative agenda. Here are just a few of the most egregious pieces of misinformation about abortion to be found within the pages of the 2016 platform:

Myth #1: Planned Parenthood Profits From Fetal Tissue Donations

Featured in multiple sections of the Republican platform is the tired and repeatedly debunked claim that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donations. In the subsection on “protecting human life,” the platform says:

We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare. We urge all states and Congress to make it a crime to acquire, transfer, or sell fetal tissues from elective abortions for research, and we call on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts. In the meantime, we call on Congress to ban the practice of misleading women on so-called fetal harvesting consent forms, a fact revealed by a 2015 investigation. We will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.

Later in the document, under a section titled “Preserving Medicare and Medicaid,” the platform again asserts that abortion providers are selling “the body parts of aborted children”—presumably again referring to the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood:

We respect the states’ authority and flexibility to exclude abortion providers from federal programs such as Medicaid and other healthcare and family planning programs so long as they continue to perform or refer for elective abortions or sell the body parts of aborted children.

The platform appears to reference the widely discredited videos produced by anti-choice organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP) as part of its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. The videos were deceptively edited, as Rewire has extensively reported. CMP’s leader David Daleiden is currently under federal indictment for tampering with government documents in connection with obtaining the footage. Republicans have nonetheless steadfastly clung to the group’s claims in an effort to block access to reproductive health care.

Since CMP began releasing its videos last year, 13 state and three congressional inquiries into allegations based on the videos have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund—which has endorsed Hillary Clinton—called the Republicans’ inclusion of CMP’s allegation in their platform “despicable” in a statement to the Huffington Post. “This isn’t just an attack on Planned Parenthood health centers,” said Laguens. “It’s an attack on the millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood each year for basic health care. It’s an attack on the brave doctors and nurses who have been facing down violent rhetoric and threats just to provide people with cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams.”

Myth #2: The Supreme Court Struck Down “Commonsense” Laws About “Basic Health and Safety” in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

In the section focusing on the party’s opposition to abortion, the GOP’s platform also reaffirms their commitment to targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws. According to the platform:

We salute the many states that now protect women and girls through laws requiring informed consent, parental consent, waiting periods, and clinic regulation. We condemn the Supreme Court’s activist decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt striking down commonsense Texas laws providing for basic health and safety standards in abortion clinics.

The idea that TRAP laws, such as those struck down by the recent Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health, are solely for protecting women and keeping them safe is just as common among conservatives as it is false. However, as Rewire explained when Paul Ryan agreed with a nearly identical claim last week about Texas’ clinic regulations, “the provisions of the law in question were not about keeping anybody safe”:

As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in the opinion declaring them unconstitutional, “When directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”

All the provisions actually did, according to Breyer on behalf of the Court majority, was put “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion,” and “constitute an undue burden on abortion access.”

Myth #3: 20-Week Abortion Bans Are Justified By “Current Medical Research” Suggesting That Is When a Fetus Can Feel Pain

The platform went on to point to Republicans’ Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a piece of anti-choice legislation already passed in several states that, if approved in Congress, would create a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks based on junk science claiming fetuses can feel pain at that point in pregnancy:

Over a dozen states have passed Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts prohibiting abortion after twenty weeks, the point at which current medical research shows that unborn babies can feel excruciating pain during abortions, and we call on Congress to enact the federal version.

Major medical groups and experts, however, agree that a fetus has not developed to the point where it can feel pain until the third trimester. According to a 2013 letter from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “A rigorous 2005 scientific review of evidence published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester,” which begins around the 28th week of pregnancy. A 2010 review of the scientific evidence on the issue conducted by the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists similarly found “that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior” to 24 weeks’ gestation.

Doctors who testify otherwise often have a history of anti-choice activism. For example, a letter read aloud during a debate over West Virginia’s ultimately failed 20-week abortion ban was drafted by Dr. Byron Calhoun, who was caught lying about the number of abortion-related complications he saw in Charleston.

Myth #4: Abortion “Endangers the Health and Well-being of Women”

In an apparent effort to criticize the Affordable Care Act for promoting “the notion of abortion as healthcare,” the platform baselessly claimed that abortion “endangers the health and well-being” of those who receive care:

Through Obamacare, the current Administration has promoted the notion of abortion as healthcare. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it.

Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that abortion is safe. Research shows that a first-trimester abortion carries less than 0.05 percent risk of major complications, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and “pose[s] virtually no long-term risk of problems such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.”

There is similarly no evidence to back up the GOP’s claim that abortion endangers the well-being of women. A 2008 study from the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, an expansive analysis on current research regarding the issue, found that while those who have an abortion may experience a variety of feelings, “no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.”

As is the case for many of the anti-abortion myths perpetuated within the platform, many of the so-called experts who claim there is a link between abortion and mental illness are discredited anti-choice activists.

Myth #5: Mifepristone, a Drug Used for Medical Abortions, Is “Dangerous”

Both anti-choice activists and conservative Republicans have been vocal opponents of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) March update to the regulations for mifepristone, a drug also known as Mifeprex and RU-486 that is used in medication abortions. However, in this year’s platform, the GOP goes a step further to claim that both the drug and its general approval by the FDA are “dangerous”:

We believe the FDA’s approval of Mifeprex, a dangerous abortifacient formerly known as RU-486, threatens women’s health, as does the agency’s endorsement of over-the-counter sales of powerful contraceptives without a physician’s recommendation. We support cutting federal and state funding for entities that endanger women’s health by performing abortions in a manner inconsistent with federal or state law.

Studies, however, have overwhelmingly found mifepristone to be safe. In fact, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals says mifepristone “is safer than acetaminophen,” aspirin, and Viagra. When the FDA conducted a 2011 post-market study of those who have used the drug since it was approved by the agency, they found that more than 1.5 million women in the U.S. had used it to end a pregnancy, only 2,200 of whom had experienced an “adverse event” after.

The platform also appears to reference the FDA’s approval of making emergency contraception such as Plan B available over the counter, claiming that it too is a threat to women’s health. However, studies show that emergency contraception is safe and effective at preventing pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization, side effects are “uncommon and generally mild.”

Analysis Politics

Donald Trump and Mike Pence: The Anti-Immigrant Ticket

Tina Vasquez

“My greatest fear is that this ticket doesn’t seem to realize immigrants are actually an incredible resource that fuels our country," Wendy Feliz of the American Immigration Council told Rewire.

On Friday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, giving legitimacy to concerns a Trump presidency would be anti-choice and decimate LGBTQ rights. As Rewire reported last week, Pence has voted against nondiscrimination efforts, signed a so-called religious freedom bill, opposed marriage equality, and attemptednumerous times—to defund Planned Parenthood, something Trump has promised to do if elected president.

But the two Republicans also have something else in common: They are brazenly anti-immigrant.

Despite a misleading article from the Daily Beast asserting that Pence has had a “love affair with immigration reform” and has “spent his political career decrying anti-immigrant rhetoric,” the governor’s record on immigration tells a different story.

Let’s take a look at Trump’s “xenophobic” and “racist” campaign thus far, and how closely Pence’s voting aligns with that position.

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Donald Trump

For months it seemed, Donald Trump’s talking points in the media rarely drifted away from anti-immigrant rhetoric. During his kickoff speech, he referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “killers” and in the months since, has promised to build a 2,000-mile-long wall along the United States-Mexico border to keep “illegals” out, a wall the billionaire has promised that Mexico will pay for.

Despite being called “racist” by members of his own party, Trump’s immigration plan is largely consistent with what many Republicans have called for: a larger border wall, increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, requiring all U.S. companies to use E-Verify to check the immigration status of employees, increasing the use of detention for those who are undocumented and currently residing in the United States, and ending “birthright citizenship,” which would mean the U.S.-born children of undocumented parents would be denied citizenship.

Again, Trump’s proposed immigration policies align with the Republican Party’s, but it is the way that he routinely spreads false, damaging information about undocumented immigrants that is worrisome. Trump has repeatedly said that economically, undocumented immigrants are “killing us by “taking our jobs, taking our manufacturing jobs, taking our money.” 

Market Watch, a publication focusing on financial news, reported that this falsehood is something that a bulk of Trump supporters believe; two-thirds of Trump supporters surveyed in the primaries said they feel immigration is a burden on our country “because ‘they take our jobs, housing and health care.'” This, despite research that says deporting the 11 million undocumented immigrants who currently call the United States home would result in a “massive economic hit” for Trump’s home state of New York, which receives $793 million in tax revenue from undocumented immigrants. A recent report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy also found that at the state and local level, undocumented immigrants nationwide collectively pay an estimated $11.6 billion each year in taxes.

Trump has also been accused by Muslim Americans and members of the media of engaging in “reckless, dangerous Islamophobia” at every opportunity, using terrorist attacks to call for a ban on all Muslim immigration, while also using terrorism in a self-aggrandizing manner. In a statement released after the Pulse nightclub shooting, Trump said, “I said this was going to happen.”

These dangerous assertions that all U.S.-based Muslims are secretly harboring terrorists or that undocumented immigrants are killing “thousands of peoplea narrative he continued to push at the Republican National Convention by having the families of three Americans killed by undocumented people speak—can be deadly and inspire hatred and violence. This was made all the more clearer when in August 2015 two white brothers cited Trump when they urinated on and beat a homeless Latino man. According to Huffington Post, the men “alegedly [sic] told police they targeted the man because of his ethnicity and added, ‘Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.’” Trump’s response? He said that his supporters are simply “passionate” people who want America “to be great again.”

Mike Pence

Wendy Feliz, a spokesperson with the American Immigration Council, succinctly summarized Pence’s immigration approach to Rewire, saying on Monday that he “basically falls into a camp of being more restrictive on immigration, someone who looks for more punitive ways to punish immigrants, rather than looking for the positive ways our country can benefit from immigrants.”

After Trump’s announcement that Pence would be his running mate, Immigration Impact, a project of the American Immigration Council, outlined what voters should know about Pence’s immigration record:

Pence’s record shows he used his time in Congress and as the Governor of Indiana to pursue extreme and punitive immigration policies earning him a 100 percent approval rating by the anti-immigration group, Federation for American Immigration Reform.

In 2004 when Pence was a senator, he voted for the “Undocumented Alien Emergency Medical Assistance Amendments.” The bill failed, but it would have required hospitals to gather and report information on undocumented patients before hospitals could be reimbursed for treating them. Even worse, the bill wouldn’t have required hospitals to provide care to undocumented patients if they could be deported to their country of origin without a “significant chance” of their condition getting worse.

Though it’s true that in 2006 Pence championed comprehensive immigration reform, as the Daily Beast reported, the reform came with two caveats: a tightening of border security and undocumented immigrants would have to “self-deport” and come back as guest workers. While calling for undocumented immigrants to self-deport may seem like the more egregious demand, it’s important to contextualize Pence’s call for an increase in border security.

This tactic of calling for more Border Patrol agents is commonly used by politicians to pacify those opposed to any form of immigration reform. President Obama, who has utilized more border security than any other president, announced deferred action for the undocumented in June 2012, while also promising to increase border security. But in 2006 when Pence was calling for an increase in border security, the border enforcement policy known as “Operation Gatekeeper” was still in full swing. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Operation Gatekeeper “concentrated border agents and resources along populated areas, intentionally forcing undocumented immigrants to extreme environments and natural barriers that the government anticipated would increase the likelihood of injury and death.” Pence called for more of this, although the undocumented population expanded significantly even when border enforcement resources escalated. The long-term results, the ACLU reported, were that migrants’ reliance on smugglers to transport them increased and migrant deaths multiplied.

There are more direct ways Pence has illustrated a xenophobic agenda, including co-sponsoring a congressional bill that would have made English the official language of the United States and as governor, blocking Syrian refugees en route to Indiana, saying he would not accept any more Syrian refugees out of fear they were “terrorists.” The governor also added Indiana to the Texas lawsuit challenging expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). And he praised the inaction by the Supreme Court last month to expand DACA and DAPA, which leaves millions of undocumented immigrants living in fear of deportation.

According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, “when a child who is not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian is apprehended by immigration authorities, the child is transferred to the care and custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Federal law requires that ORR feed, shelter, and provide medical care for unaccompanied children until it is able to release them to safe settings with sponsors (usually family members), while they await immigration proceedings.”

The ORR added that these sponsors “live in many states,” including Indiana, which received 245 unaccompanied minors between January and July 2014. Pence was reportedly unaware that unaccompanied minors were being placed in his state by the federal government, something he said he was made aware of by media reports. These are asylum seeking children, often girls under the age of 10, escaping violence in their countries of origin who arrive at the United States-Mexico border without an adult. Many, including advocacy organizations and the Obama administration, have contended that the circumstances surrounding unaccompanied minors is not simply an immigration issue, but a humanitarian crisis. Not Pence. In a letter to President Obama, the Indiana governor wrote:

While we feel deep compassion for these children, our country must secure its borders and provide for a legal and orderly immigration process …. Failure to expedite the return of unaccompanied children thwarts the rule of law and will only continue to send a distorted message that illegally crossing into America is without consequence.

In the four days since Pence was named Trump’s running mate, he’s also taken a much harsher stance on Muslim immigration. Back in December when Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” Pence tweeted that banning Muslims from entering the United States was “offensive and unconstitutional.” However, on Friday when Pence was officially named Trump’s VP pick, he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity, “I am very supportive of Donald Trump’s call to temporarily suspend immigration from countries where terrorist influence and impact represents a threat to the United States.”

Wendy Feliz of the American Immigration Council told Rewire that while Pence’s rhetoric may not be as inflammatory as Trump’s, it’s important to look at his record in relation to Trump’s to get a better understanding of what the Republican ticket intends to focus on moving into a possible presidency. Immigration, she said, is one of the most pressing issues of our time and has become a primary focus of the election.

“In a few days, we’ll have a better sense of the particular policies the Republican ticket will be pursuing on immigration. It all appears to point to more of the same, which is punitive, the punishing of immigrants,” Feliz said. “My greatest fear is that this ticket doesn’t seem to realize immigrants are actually an incredible resource that fuels our country. I don’t think Trump and Pence is a ticket that values that. An administration that doesn’t value immigrants, that doesn’t value what’s fueled our country for the past several hundred years, hurts all of us. Not just immigrants themselves, but every single American.”