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Kamala Harris visits Planned Parenthood clinic

Harris is believed to be the first president or vice president in U.S. history to visit a clinic that provides abortion services.
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Vice President Kamala Harris toured a Planned Parenthood clinic in Minnesota on Thursday, becoming what is believed to be the first president or vice president ever to visit a clinic that provides abortion services in U.S. history.

Sources familiar with Harris’ visit to the St. Paul clinic told NBC News that the vice president wanted to make sure she was meeting with people directly impacted by abortion policies and to connect with them in their spaces. The sources also said the visit is part of a broader strategy by Harris to be traveling and on the ground with Americans as much as possible.

Harris, who has become a prominent voice in the Biden administration on the issue of abortion, said she made the trip to highlight the work happening in such clinics and to hammer home the point that women need more access to reproductive healthcare in the aftermath of the Supreme Court overruling Roe v. Wade.

“In this environment, these attacks against an individual’s right to make decisions about their own body are outrageous, and in many instances just plain old immoral,” Harris said while standing in the lobby of the clinic. “How dare these elected leaders believe they are in a better position to tell women what they need, to tell women what is in their best interest. We have to be a nation that trusts women.”

Image: Vice President Kamala Harris
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at Planned Parenthood Thursday in St. Paul, Minn. Adam Bettcher / AP

Harris said that, while in the clinic, she met with about two dozen health care workers and praised them for “providing health care in a safe place that gives people dignity.” She also said she wanted to come to St. Paul specifically because in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade being overruled, Minnesota workers have been providing care to an influx of out-of-state patients as states around it have restricted access to abortion. 

“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,” she said.

“It is only right and fair that people have access to the health care they need and that they have access to health care in an environment where they are treated with dignity and respect. And please do understand that when we talk about a clinic such as this, it is absolutely about health care and reproductive health care,” she added.

In 2013, then-President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to address Planned Parenthood, the group said back then. But Obama delivered his remarks at a Planned Parenthood conference at a hotel in Washington, D.C., and not at one of its clinics. 

Minnesota was the sixth stop in Harris’ “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” tour, which she kicked off in January to push for more abortion access in the wake of the overruling of Roe v. Wade. Since the Supreme Court ruling, Harris has held scores of meetings with hundreds of lawmakers from more than 40 states, according to her office.

On Thursday, Harris stressed that efforts to restrict abortion access have endangered women’s lives and denied them much-needed care to not only abortion services, but also other care provided by Planned Parenthood, including breast exams and pap smears. 

“Right now in our country, we are facing a very serious health crisis,” Harris said. “And the crisis is affecting many, many people in our country, most of whom are frankly silently suffering."

The vice president argued that since Roe v. Wade was overruled, "extremists have proposed and passed laws that have denied women access to reproductive health care.” 

Sarah Traxler, the chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood North Central States, also spoke after Harris’ tour of the clinic.

“I’m honored that Vice President Kamala Harris has visited our clinic today,” she said. “It’s a historic moment, and one that demonstrates how critically important access to reproductive health care is to people and their families across the country.”

Traxler said that since the Supreme Court’s decision, Planned Parenthood in Minnesota has seen a 25% increase in abortions and a nearly 100% increase in out-of-state patients seeking their services. 

“This is not by accident. Surrounding states have been limiting and banning abortion, while Minnesota, with the help of our governor, has been increasing access since Roe was overturned,” Traxler said.

“I’ve cared for patients from everywhere from nearby states like South Dakota and North Dakota and Wisconsin, but from faraway states like Texas, Alabama, Wyoming, Florida, Oklahoma, Missouri, and the list goes on,” she added.

Harris vowed that Democrats, if given control of Congress and the White House, would codify federal abortion rights into law.

“Elections matter,” the vice president said. 

The issue of abortion has become a top priority for Democrats heading into the November presidential election. President Joe Biden highlighted the issue prominently in his State of the Union address and has promised to push for more access to abortions. A number of polls have also shown that protecting abortion rights is a key concern for many voters.