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What women need to know about Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s new running mate

With a few days left to go before the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton has selected Virginia senator Timothy Kaine as her running mate and the possible next vice president of the United States. Her choice wasn’t completely shocking; many say Kaine is a safe bet and a politician who was at the top of her list from the start of her campaign.

The first thing he has going for him is that he hails from a swing state and has served as both governor of Virginia and mayor of Richmond. Second, Kaine is a media-savvy, Spanish-speaking candidate who was the chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2009 to 2011 and one of the first to endorse President Obama during his run.

Third, Kaine isn’t going to shake things up the way that, say, Senator Elizabeth Warren would have (which is a good thing). But his track record on women’s issues is strong enough to appeal to many Democrats — that is, if you can overlook one or two facts that make some a little nervous.

Let’s back up.

The first thing that needs to be said about Kaine is that Planned Parenthood gave him a rating of 100 percent on its 2016 Congressional Scorecard. The scores are given based on elected officials’ votes on legislation related to women’s health care and rights. Here are some of the important stands Kaine has taken in support of women: 

  • He voted against eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood.
  • He voted in support of a bill that banned employers from refusing to provide any health coverage, including contraceptive coverage, to women.
  • He voted for the Women’s Quality Access to Health Care amendment.
  • He voted against an amendment that would allow health professionals to deny women health care, including abortions, because of the health professionals’ religious or moral convictions.
  • He voted against an amendment (proposed by Ted Cruz, FYI) that would have withdrawn U.S. participation from the United Nations, which would have undercut U.S. influence in promoting women’s rights around the world.
  • He voted in favor of restoring funding for Planned Parenthood.
  • He voted against the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act,” which required survivors of sexual assault to undergo compulsory medical treatment or counseling 48 hours prior to an abortion.

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But Clinton’s choice isn’t pitch-perfect.

Here’s the thing about Kaine that might make some women worry: He describes himself as a devout Catholic who is personally opposed to abortion. In 2005, while running for governor, Kaine pledged to reduce the number of abortions in Virginia by promoting adoption and abstinence-focused education. Kaine supported the Hyde Amendment, which prevents Medicaid recipients from using federal funds to fund abortions, and he supports parental consent for mothers seeking abortions. At the same time, he told CNN that he supports Roe v. Wade and refuses to refer to himself as “pro-life” because “I’ve never embraced labels,” he said.

That might seem wishy-washy to some, but Kaine insists that he is one of the few politicians out there (my words, not his) who can actually separate his personal beliefs and religious convictions from those that best serve his constituents.

“I have a traditional Catholic personal position, but I am very strongly supportive that women should make these decisions and governments shouldn’t intrude,” Kaine told CNN. “I’m a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade and women being able to make these decisions. In government, we have enough things to worry about. We don’t need to make people’s reproductive decisions for them.”

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Some politicians, including Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and even Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, have either implied or come out and said plainly that Kaine is the real deal: a person who has well-thought-out positions on issues and is able to take public policy positions that conflict with his own personal beliefs. And this is only the beginning. Over the next few days, the country will learn a great deal about Kaine and why he is Clinton’s No. 1 choice for running mate. As far as women’s issues are concerned, he’s got at least one thing going for him: He’s no Mike Pence.

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