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Kamala Harris becomes first VP to visit abortion provider with Planned Parenthood visit

By Samantha Waldenberg, Betsy Klein and Priscilla Alvarez, CNN

(CNN) — Vice President Kamala Harris went to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Minnesota on Thursday, the first time a sitting US president or vice president is believed to visit an abortion provider.

The visit was a part of Harris’ efforts to highlight an issue the campaign believes will galvanize moderate voters in November.

“I’m here at this health care clinic to uplift the work that is happening in Minnesota as an example of what true leadership looks like,” Harris told reporters from the lobby of the clinic.

The vice president traveled to Minnesota for the sixth stop of her “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” tour. She toured the Planned Parenthood facility and spoke with staff about reproductive rights.

“The reason I’m here is because this is a health care crisis,” Harris said. “Part of this health care crisis is the clinics like this that have had to shut down and what that has meant to leave no options with any reasonable geographic area for so many women who need this essential care.”

Dr. Sarah Traxler, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood North Central States, joined the vice president during her remarks. Traxler highlighted the “historic” nature of Thursday’s visit in her prepared remarks, and she described the abortion landscape since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade as “difficult” and “dangerous.”

“It’s a historic moment, and one that demonstrates how critically important access to reproductive health care is,” she said.

Harris, the first woman to be elected to her position, began the tour in January in Wisconsin. She has since held events in California, Georgia, Michigan and Arizona.

Harris wanted to visit a women’s health care clinic as part of her reproductive rights tour launched earlier this year, building on the meetings she’s had with patients and providers, according to a source familiar with the matter. It’s an extension of a weekslong tour to seize on an issue that’s top of mind for voters and one that Harris has emerged as a key voice on.

The Harris team has focused on reproductive rights as a salient political issue that they believed the vice president was uniquely positioned to lead on, building on what advisers and campaign officials viewed as a success with her college campus tour. The issue has been top of mind for the vice president, dating back to 2021, when she held a reproductive rights roundtable.

Minnesota marked the fifth state Harris has visited since the president’s State of the Union address last week. Prepared remarks from the president’s address included the word abortion, but the president did not say the word when he delivered the speech.

In 2023, Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill into law that enshrines the “fundamental right” to access abortion in the state.

The vice president’s visit to Minnesota came during what the Biden campaign is calling the “March Month of Action,” which includes plans for President Joe Biden and Harris to travel to every battleground state this month.

The vice president has drawn on testimonials to underscore the impacts of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. She’s pointed to the fallout of the high court’s ruling in attacks against former President Donald Trump, who clinched the Republican nomination for president this week. After her historic visit on Thursday, Harris called out Trump for creating a “health care crisis.”

“The former president is the architect of a health care crisis, and the extremists – well, they’re not done. In the United States Congress, extremists tried to pass a national abortion ban to outlaw abortion in every single state. But they need to know is that if Congress passes the national abortion ban, President Joe Biden will veto it,” Harris said at a Women for Biden-Harris campaign event.

It’s all part of a broader Biden campaign strategy that officials plotted for months, aware of the need to mobilize young voters and voters of color amid waning enthusiasm and utilizing what they view as one of the vice president’s strengths: engaging with people on the road.

But it hasn’t been without its hiccups.

Harris has occasionally faced protestors on her reproductive freedoms tour, including one group that declined to participate over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The campaign is focused on making abortion a centerpiece of its messaging as it seeks to court moderate voters – particularly women.

About half of registered voters in the United States say this year’s elections will have a “major impact” on access to abortion, and about 1 in 8 voters says that abortion is the most important issue driving their vote, according to a new KFF survey.

This story has been updated with additional developments on Thursday.

CNN’s Piper Hudspeth Blackburn contributed to this report.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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