Updated March 14, 2024 at 3:23 PM ET

Vice President Harris visited an abortion clinic in Minnesota on Thursday — an extraordinary stop meant to signal the importance the Biden campaign is placing on reproductive rights in the 2024 presidential race.

The White House believes this is the first time any U.S. president or vice president has visited a facility that provides abortions along with other reproductive care.

Harris said she made the visit to draw attention to the "very serious health crisis" facing women who live in states that placed new restrictions on abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.

"We who have the ability to have a bouquet of microphones in front of us, as I do — I take on, then, the responsibility of uplifting these stories," Harris told reporters.

Harris went to a Planned Parenthood clinic

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe, Minnesota passed a new law guaranteeing the right to abortion. Neighboring states — including North Dakota and South Dakota — passed bans. That has meant more women traveling to Minnesota for the procedure.

Inside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Saint Paul, Harris met with Dr. Sarah Traxler, the chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood North Central States. The clinic was open during her visit, but reporters were kept in the lobby.

"I am a proud abortion provider," Traxler told reporters after the tour, calling the vice president's visit a "historic moment."

"Since Roe was overturned, I've cared for patients from everywhere," Traxler said, noting women have come from states as far away as Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Missouri, Florida and Wyoming.

Harris emphasized that abortion is health care

About dozen protesters gathered outside for Harris' arrival at the clinic with Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn. One sign said "Abortion is not healthcare."

Afterward, Harris emphasized to reporters that the facility provides health care for women. "It is absolutely about health care and reproductive health care. So everyone get ready for the language: 'uterus,'" Harris said. "That part of the body needs a lot of medical care from time to time."

Democrats see abortion as a winning issue for November

Harris' Twin Cities trip was the latest in a series of events she has had around the country highlighting reproductive rights since Roe was overturned. The issue has been a winning one for Democrats in elections that took place in 2022 and 2023, and the party has said they believe it will be on top of voters' minds heading into November.

In the last several weeks, Harris has been to a number of swing states critical for Biden's reelection, like Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.



Vice President Kamala Harris is going to the Twin Cities in Minnesota today where she'll do something the White House claims that no other vice president or president, for that matter, has ever done. She plans to visit a medical clinic that provides abortions. To talk more about this trip, NPR White House correspondent Deepa Shivaram joins me now. Good morning.


FADEL: Hey. So I want to get into the significance of this trip. What is the message the White House is sending here?

SHIVARAM: Yeah. You know, that's right. The White House believes that this is the first time a president or vice president has ever visited a clinic that performs abortions, which really just highlights how much of an issue reproductive care is in this election - right? - and how much Democrats want it to remain top of mind for voters this year. The White House hasn't said which exact clinic Harris is visiting in Minnesota due to some safety concerns, but they're saying that it's a facility that provides all kinds of reproductive care, including providing birth control and preventative care in addition to providing abortions. And Harris is going to tour this clinic with the provider there, speak with staff and talk about what abortion care looks like in the state and in surrounding states. Minnesota passed a law guaranteeing abortion protections after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, but in neighboring states like North and South Dakota, abortions are almost completely banned, and that's led to a lot more patients coming into Minnesota to seek that care.

FADEL: And this stop is part of a series of events Harris has been doing on reproductive care around the country. What has she been saying about - what has she been talking about since that kicked off?

SHIVARAM: Yeah, I mean, this visit to Minnesota will be Harris' sixth stop on this reproductive rights tour that she's doing. She's visited swing states like Wisconsin, where she kicked off the tour in January, Arizona and Michigan. And the idea behind the tour, Leila, is to highlight the range of abortion laws in the U.S., how some states have moved to make abortion more accessible since Roe was overturned, while some states have made it much harder and have passed laws that criminalize patients and providers. But overall, during this tour, she's really been talking about the state of reproductive health care in the country, about abortion care, but also things like access to IVF and maternal mortality rates. And at these stops, I'll say, you know, she's really not mincing words here. Here she is speaking in Phoenix last week.


VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: You know, I've met women who had miscarriages in toilets because they were refused care. I met a woman who went to the emergency room during a miscarriage and was turned away repeatedly because the doctors there were afraid they might be put in jail for giving her care. And it was only when she developed sepsis that they administered care.

FADEL: So, as you point out, Deepa, the Democrats seem to think this is their winning issue. But is Harris' tour affecting public opinion, especially in an election year where voters aren't excited by either of the two major party candidates?

SHIVARAM: Yeah, I mean, that's a great question. You know, it's hard to say whether Harris's tour is shaping how voters feel or how they're going to vote, right? But abortion rights do remain one of the No. 1 issues that Democratic voters care about. In a recent poll from KFF, which is an organization that polls on health issues, they found that 12% of voters said that abortion was their top issue in this election. For Democratic women and for Black women specifically, that number jumps much higher, around 20%. And keep in mind, you know, this visit is coming as, to your earlier point, Biden is facing a lack of enthusiasm from voters and ongoing questions about his age. And we know this is going to be a tight election, so Democrats keeping this issue top of mind is important for them.

FADEL: NPR's Deepa Shivaram, thanks.

SHIVARAM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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