Clinton makes pitch to female voters

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much GOP challenger seizes on outrage against Massie Juan Williams: Mueller, one year on MORE on Friday vowed unwavering support to Planned Parenthood in her first speech as the presumptive Democratic nominee, cementing abortion rights as a central plank in her general election fight.

“I’ve been proud to stand with Planned Parenthood for a long time, and as president, I will always have your back,” Clinton told a packed room of supporters at an event hosted by the women’s health group in Washington, D.C.

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Clinton’s rallying cry for reproductive rights on Friday made clear that she would campaign unabashedly on the contentious issue of abortion as she battled Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it's requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says MORE this fall.

It also had another key purpose – a chance to win over the young female voting bloc that has until now backed her Democratic rival Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Sanders still sees 'narrow path' to Democratic presidential nomination Tenants call on lawmakers to pass rent freezes MORE. Sanders has won over female millennials by as much as a 30-point threshold during their bitter primary.

Clinton delivered her pitch to one of the nation’s largest female-focused groups four days after she became the first woman to earn the presidential nomination for a major party.

“It’s been a big week, and there’s nowhere I’d rather end it than right here, with the Planned Parenthood Action Fund,” Clinton said.

The backdrop offers a powerful visual for the start of her general election campaign: She delivered the 30-minute speech to an almost all-female crowd decked out in hot pink. Supporters applauded robustly, waved “Hillary” signs and even finished the candidate’s sentences as she quoted famed author Maya Angelou and repeated her favorite attack lines against Donald Trump.

Just minutes before going on stage at the Planned Parenthood event, Clinton met with progressive icon Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much Biden faces pesky enthusiasm challenge despite big primary numbers MORE amid intense VP speculation. The Democratic senator from Massachusetts has been widely deemed to have a better shot at reaching Sanders’s more liberal followers.

The speech to Planned Parenthood supporters also allows Clinton to seize on an issue that is considered an undeniably important one for young female Democrats.

She spoke passionately about striking down Texas’s anti-abortion law pending review by the Supreme Court, about blocking religious-based challenges to ObamaCare’s birth control mandate and about investing in long-term contraception like IUDs.

But she also made clear that women’s access to abortion and birth control were part of a much broader message.

“For too long, issues like these have been dismissed by many as ‘women’s issues’ – as though that somehow makes them less worthy, secondary,” Clinton said to thunderous applause.

“Well, yes, these are women’s issues. They’re also family issues. They’re economic issues. They’re justice issues. They’re fundamental to our country and our future.”

Clinton also underscored the long, century-long fight that led to her eventual rise to the top of the Democratic party.

She pointed out that when Planned Parenthood was founded, women couldn’t vote or sit on juries in most states. She mentioned “back-alley” abortions and the Supreme Court ruling 50 years ago this week that legalized contraception for married couples.

And then she forecast a dire scenario if she is beaten by Trump – “who has called women ‘pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ and ‘disgusting animals.’” –  in the general election.

Abortion is all but certain to emerge as a major issue in Clinton’s matchup against Trump this fall.

The presumptive GOP nominee has already run into trouble in the primary race with his past commets on his abortion stance. Trump, who once called himself “very pro-choice,” said earlier this year that women should be “punished” for abortions, though he later walked them back after a swift backlash on the right.  

Clinton seized on Trump’s comments again on Friday, taking them as proof that he “doesn’t hold women in high regard.”

“We’re in the middle of a concerted, persistent assault on women’s health across the country,” Clinton said. "Do we want to put our health, our lives, our futures in Donald Trump’s hands?"