Protesters cloaked in red robes and wearing white bonnets like characters in the novel and TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale” greeted Vice President Mike Pence on Friday when he spoke at Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs.
The 1985 Margaret Atwood novel depicts a dystopian society under fundamentalist rule where women are treated as property. A Hulu TV series based on the novel began airing this spring, inspiring protesters around the country to don the distinctive garb.
Across the street from the protesters, Pence, a former Republican governor of Indiana, helped celebrate the ministry’s 40th anniversary in a half-hour address delivered to 1,600 employees, supporters and friends of the nonprofit. He called Focus “an organization that’s been a champion without equal for American families, a bastion of grace,” adding that it has “inspired millions by your model of Christian love.”
Pence drew a standing ovation and sustained cheers, The Gazette’s Stephanie Earls reported, when he said, “Later this summer when we repeal and replace Obamacare, we’re going to defund Planned Parenthood once and for all.”
“The ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ is not an instruction manual, it’s a warning,” read a sign held by one of the red-robed protesters. “Stop targeting women’s health care,” read another.
Roughly 100 protesters showed up to chant and wave signs Pence’s way, and about a dozen of them were dressed in the “Handmaid’s Tale” outfits.
“It’s a way of showing that Focus on the Family and Mike Pence stand for very restrictive, ‘traditional’ gender roles, opposition to choice for women and anti-LGBTQ positions,” Ryan Barry, one of the protest’s organizers, told Colorado Politics earlier this week. “This is the way they see Focus, this backwards organization that’s promoting stuff that’s far beyond what most of us would consider applicable for modern society.”
Protester Jessica Lawyer told The Gazette’s Caroline Laganas she had dressed as a handmaid because the book was about women losing all their rights. “We feel it’s closer now in reality than we’re comfortable with,” she said.
Pence’s visit to Focus was closed to the public because of capacity and security concerns, a Focus official said.
After speaking at the organization, the vice president toured Schriever Air Force Base and was scheduled to attend a fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.
The protest was organized on social media by Unite Colorado Springs, the Colorado Springs chapter of the Colorado Action Network, the Pikes Peak Progressives and the Colorado Springs Socialists.