Pro-abortion rights groups give Kaine nod of approval
© Greg Nash

Major pro-abortion rights groups moved quickly to applaud Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonO’Malley tells Dems not to fear Trump FBI informant gathered years of evidence on Russian push for US nuclear fuel deals, including Uranium One, memos show Pelosi blasts California Republicans for supporting tax bill MORE's vice presidential pick Sen. Tim KaineTimothy Michael KaineBooker tries to find the right lane  Democrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  GOP campaign committees call on Democrats to return Franken donations MORE, looking past his more conservative opinions on the issue to downplay what is seen as a big weakness on the left.

NARAL Pro-Choice America sent out a statement immediately after Clinton announced Kaine as her running mate, acknowledging some of his past remarks about personal opposition to abortion and record before reaching the U.S. Senate. 

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"While Senator Kaine has been open about his personal reservations about abortion, he’s maintained a 100% pro-choice voting record in the U.S. Senate. He voted against dangerous abortion bans, he has fought against efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, and he voted to strengthen clinic security by establishing a federal fund for it," NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in the statement. 

She said that voting for abortion rights despite personal beliefs underlines the group's message.

"This is core part of what it means to be pro-choice – supporting everyone’s individual decision making," the statement read.

As buzz grew about Kaine as a potential VP pick, NARAL was silent on its stance on the Virginia senator, along with several other abortion rights groups. But the issue was seen as a potential hurdle for Kaine — especially in terms of the Clinton ticket locking in progressive voters that may have favored Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersDe Blasio headed to Iowa to speak at political fundraiser Yes, spills happen — but pipelines are still the safest way to move oil Why sexual harassment discussions include lawmakers talking about Bill Clinton’s past MORE in the primary. 

"When he was Governor, Tim Kaine took positions we disagreed with and actively campaigned against. We’re pleased that since then, his votes and public statements have been consistently in favor of trusting women to make our own decisions," Hogue said. "And as with all of our allies, we weren’t afraid to voice disagreement with him then and we will not be afraid to disagree, if needed, with him as Vice President."

The group said that it trusts Clinton's decision and lauded her "robust agenda when it comes to preserving and expanding reproductive freedom and justice."

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards made a brief appearance on MSNBC Friday night to give Kaine her approval, echoing NARAL's statement. 

Richards said Kaine holds a 100 percent rating on Planned Parenthood's scorecard for his Senate record and said "he’s been not only a solid vote but really an ally."

When host Rachel Maddow referenced his 2005 stance as governor of Virginia, which aimed to reduce abortion by enforcing existing laws, encouraging abstinence-focused sex education and adoption and opposing partial-birth abortion, Richards said she believes he has "evolved" on the issue.

She criticized GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpO’Malley tells Dems not to fear Trump Right way and wrong way Five things to know about the elephant trophies controversy MORE's vice presidential pick, Indiana Gov. Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceSome WH aides anxious over Russia probe despite reassurances from Trump lawyer: report Paul Krugman unwittingly fulfills fiscal fantasies for Republicans Ex-Pence aide on Rosie: She promised to leave US if Trump won and she's still here MORE, who has staunchly fought against Planned Parenthood and abortion in his state. 

"It is very clear that Secretary Clinton and Tim Kaine are where the American people are," she said. "We have a ticket we can really be proud of and stand behind."

Last week, Kaine sought to reassure Democrats about his stance on the issue, telling CNN: "I have a traditional Catholic personal position, but I am very strongly supportive that women should make these decisions and government shouldn't intrude."

Some groups skirted addressing his abortion record head-on, focusing instead on his support for other women's issues.

EMILY's List, a group that supports pro-abortion rights female candidates, said Kaine is "an excellent choice" to amplify the Democratic platform. 

“Senator Kaine has been a strong supporter of economic opportunity for women – he has stood alongside our women in the Senate and fought for equal pay for women, raising incomes of American workers, and protecting access to health care through the Women’s Health Protection Act," the group's president Stephanie Schriock said in a statement. "Senator Kaine is an excellent choice to help move forward an agenda that benefits all Americans."

The National Organization for Women (NOW) said Kaine will "work to break down the barriers that hold women and marginalized communities back."

"Sen. Kaine is a proud co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, led the fight to restore the contraceptive coverage requirement guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act, and supports women’s access to safe, legal and medically appropriate abortion care," NOW President Terry O'Neill said in a release. "Sen. Kaine has also consistently championed universal pre-K, sensible gun regulation, and comprehensive immigration reform, and is an unwavering opponent of the death penalty."

Each group's response highlighted their universal opposition to Trump and Pence. NOW called their campaign a "turn-back-the-clock, step up the war on women platform." And EMILY's List said the ticket "is the most dangerous and divisive we have ever seen."

NARAL wrote: "The adoption of a Republican Party platform that will rob women - half the population - of our fundamental rights and freedoms is a clear window into the frightening agenda that will make the Trump-Pence misogyny all too real for Americans."