Historic abortion clinic visit by Harris appeals to important voting bloc: Black and brown women

Harris became the first sitting U.S. vice president to visit a reproductive care clinic to highlight what Democrats hope will be a winning issue for them in November.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris arrives to speak during her visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area on March 14, 2024. Harris toured an abortion clinic, highlighting a key election issue in what U.S. media reported was the first such visit by a president or vice president. (Photo by STEPHEN MATUREN/AFP via Getty Images)

Vice President Kamala Harris did what no U.S. vice president, or even president, had ever done when she visited a Planned Parenthood clinic. The trip Thursday to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area came as part of her nationwide Fight for Reproductive Freedoms tour.

“It is a powerful moment for her to lead on this issue,” said Alencia Johnson, a Democratic strategist and former Planned Parenthood staffer. As the first woman, first Black woman, and first Southeast Asian-American to serve as vice president, Harris is “prepared for such a time as this.”

Johnson applauded the Biden-Harris administration’s governmentwide efforts to combat the nearly two dozen abortion bans enacted across the country after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. She told theGrio she hopes that Harris’ clinic visit “shifts” the way that the majority of Americans view abortion care and “reduces the stigma.”

While visiting the St. Paul Health Center in the Twin Cities, Harris described the state of reproductive care and abortion access as a “health crisis.” The vice president noted that many American women are “silently suffering” after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in 2022.

Harris said that during her ongoing reproductive freedoms tour, she has heard women and providers express grave concerns about the future of health care and the repercussions of the abortion bans that 21 states have enacted. Those consequences include women enduring miscarriages and a fear of providers being criminalized

Clinics like the Planned Parenthood site in Minnesota, noted the vice president, are critically needed.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during her visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Minnesota, on Thursday. Harris toured the clinic, which provides abortion and other services, to highlight a key election issue. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/AFP via Getty Images)

“Please do understand that when we talk about a clinic such as this, it is absolutely about health care and reproductive health care,” she told reporters after touring the facility. Harris added, “So everyone get ready for the language: Uterus. That part of the body needs a lot of medical care from time to time.”

The vice president shared that the treatment of major health issues affecting women like fibroids and breast cancer – in addition to contraceptive care and abortion services – are provided by the hundreds of clinics like Planned Parenthood throughout the nation that are on the decline. 

Aimee Allison, founder of She the People, applauded the historic visit, particularly for what she saw as a direct appeal to women of color – a voting bloc she noted will be needed to replicate Harris and President Joe Biden’s 2020 election win.

Allison told theGrio, “It was based on very slim margins that were made up of Black and brown women.”

Due to the “majority of white women” who voted for former President Donald Trump – something Allison believes “hasn’t changed” – Biden and Harris’ ability to win reelection will come down to motivating their base in states like Minnesota, where the vice president noted that women have traveled across state lines to access abortion care due to bans in neighboring states.

“The question is, can the coalition that supported their win last time show up in enough numbers to win in key states?” she asked rhetorically. “Will Black women, Latinos, Asian-Americans who came out in record numbers in 2020 … repeat that? Are they highly motivated?”

Mini Timmaraju, president of Reproductive Freedom for All, said in a statement provided to theGrio that “abortion matters to voters because abortion impacts the day-to-day lives of each and every American.” 

She added, “As a woman of color, it’s incredibly affirming to see the vice president lead this charge and demonstrate the impact we continue to have in the movement.”

Abortion protest, theGrio.com
Demonstrators in Florida in June 2022, including members of Florida Planned Parenthood PAC, protest the Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. This week, Vice President Kamala Harris visited a Planned Parenthood clinic in Minnesota. (Photo by Chanda Khanna/AFP via Getty Images)

While abortion access has proved to be a motivator for voters in previous election cycles following the Dobbs decision, other issues like U.S. support of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and immigration threaten the administration’s ability to drive its base to the polls on Nov. 5.

Johnson noted that tying the issue of abortion to the No. 1 issue for voters, the economy, could prove to be a successful strategy for Biden and Harris. “Agency over our bodies is directly connected to our economic freedom,” she told theGrio. “Access to reproductive health care is an economic issue for women and for families.”

Johnson said the “great thing” about the vice president’s historic visit is that it brings “a lot of attention on what she’s doing” when ordinarily it appears to be a misguided perception driven by the media that she is not seen enough by the American public.

“The vice president has been to 15, 16 states in 2024 alone. She is out there. And this is something that everyone wants to pay attention to,” she noted. “I know her staffers. They are tired because they are always on the road.”

Johnson added, “Hopefully, this gets the media to start paying attention to what she’s doing more and stop asking the question.”

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Harris has served as a leading administration voice speaking out against abortion bans and warning against a Republican-led national ban if Trump is reelected. To date, the vice president has been to battleground states like Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, and Nevada to lift up the issue and meet with community leaders. Harris also convened several White House meetings with stakeholders, including one with hundreds of state legislators from more than 40 states.

Advocates say the vice president’s efforts to spotlight reproductive rights and what it means for communities most at risk is something that only she can do, given her unique gender and racial identity. 

“If there’s a chance to hold together the coalition, to bring them back together, to excite them and get them back out to vote, it is in these tours,” said Allison. “She is telling us without maybe directly saying it, she sees us and cares about who we are and what we care about, and our vision for the country.”

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Gerren Keith Gaynor

Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.