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Abortion is weakness for Clinton VP favorite

Greg Nash

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is generally seen as a safe vice presidential pick for Hillary Clinton.

A white man fluent in Spanish and from a swing state, Kaine is a former Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman.

He’d provide some balance to the Clinton ticket and give her a running mate many see as an ideal partner in government.

There’s only one big problem with picking Kaine: abortion.

{mosads}While Kaine does not back overturning the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, he is personally opposed to the practice and has backed controversial restrictions, such as parental ­notification laws and a ban on late-term abortions.

A range of groups supporting abortion rights, including EMILY’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood, declined to comment or did not respond to inquiries when asked if they had concerns about Kaine’s record on abortion — a silence that suggests there are Clinton picks they’d prefer to Kaine, who is reportedly being vetted for the position. 

Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL in Virginia, wrote in an email that Clinton is “the epitome of an unwavering champion of choice.”

“We hope she selects a vice presidential candidate who will continue her fight for reproductive freedom,” she added.

Asked if Kaine would fit that definition, Keene did not respond. 

Kaine, who did not comment for this story, was on President Obama’s shortlist for vice president in 2008, when he acknowledged his positions on abortion had faced blowback from the left.

“In some of those areas where I’ve supported restrictions on abortion, not all on the left have appreciated it, but I think it has been important to do that because there’s a moral gravity, I think, to abortion as an issue that has to be respected,” Kaine told TV host Charlie Rose in 2008, before Obama picked then-Sen. Joe Biden (Del.) as his running mate.

Kaine has supported a requirement for parental consent for an abortion — with an exception if a judge waives it — as well as “informed consent” rules, where a provider must give a woman information about adoption and other options.

He has also supported a ban, with exceptions for the life and health of the mother, on the controversial late-term procedure that critics label “partial-birth” abortion.

Some of those positions stem from his years as Virginia’s governor.

As a senator, he has a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood’s scorecard, and has consistently voted against measures like defunding Planned Parenthood and a ban on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.  

One women’s health group pointed to Kaine’s more recent record in the Senate as supportive of abortion rights and women’s health.

Kaine is seen as a centrist, and his selection as Clinton’s running mate would not fire up the left. On Tuesday, he appeared at a press conference to support a bipartisan gun control measure from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) that was criticized by some Democrats for not going far enough. 

Clinton is vetting a number of Democrats for vice president, and many liberals are hoping she picks Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who some think could do more to unify the party after Clinton’s divisive primary fight with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Geoffrey Skelley, associate editor of the Sabato’s Crystal Ball newsletter at the University of Virginia, said Kaine’s abortion views “could be a source of vulnerability” for him. 

But he noted that Clinton, a clear champion of abortion rights, will be at the top of the ticket and “can vouch for him.”

Kaine, who would presumably be deployed to tackle other issues has also made a clear distinction between his personal views and his policy positions, which have largely been in favor of abortion rights, Skelley said. 

In fact, Biden has made a similar distinction, saying he personally believes abortion is wrong but does not want it to be illegal. 

Still, there are some lingering tensions with abortion rights groups.

In 2009, while Kaine was governor of Virginia and chairman of the DNC, groups publicly criticized him for signing a bill to create a “Choose Life” license plate that would help fund anti-abortion pregnancy clinics.

Kaine defended the decision by saying it was simply a matter of free speech and that he would allow license plates from a range of viewpoints. 

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said at the time: “It is unfortunate that, even after receiving thousands of messages from Virginians and pro-choice activists across the country, Gov. Kaine has opted to sign a bill that advances a divisive political ideology at the expense of women’s health.”

Joel Goldstein, an expert on vice presidential picks at Saint Louis University, said he thought Kaine’s abortion views would be “a factor but not a decisive factor.”

Warren and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), two strong progressives who are also possible vice presidential picks, have their own drawbacks, Goldstein noted. 

“My guess is some of the pro-choice groups will express the people they prefer to Kaine,” he said. “But by the same token, some of the Wall Street groups are indicating they wouldn’t be thrilled by Warren or Sherrod Brown.”

Tags Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Sherrod Brown Susan Collins Tim Kaine

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