Some voters are unhappy with Hillary Clinton’s choice of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine for vice president.
Jodi Jacobson of the progressive news site Rewire wrote last week that, “The selection of Kaine would be the first signal that Clinton intends to seek progressive votes but ignore progressive values and goals, likely at her peril, and ours.” Jordan Chariton of the online political talk show The Young Turks told Politico that Kaine “will do nothing but confirm to progressives she’s learned nothing from this primary.” Glamour published a piece by reproductive justice activist Renee Bracey Sherman titled “Why Tim Kaine’s Stance on Abortion Scares Me.”
At the heart of much of that backlash are Kaine’s beliefs about reproductive rights. A Catholic, he has described himself as personally opposed to abortion and has even called himself “pro-life.” In 2005, during his first campaign for governor of Virginia, he said he supported “appropriate and reasonable checks on the right to abortion” and promised to uphold the state’s existing restrictions on the procedure, such as a 24-hour waiting period, a parental notification requirement, and restrictions on government funding, according to Washington Post story from that year.
Since being elected to the Senate in 2013, however, Kaine’s voting record on reproductive rights has been more or less spotless, at least according to Planned Parenthood, which in its 2016 congressional scorecard said he voted in favor of women’s health 100% of the time. He has voted against a bill that would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks, in favor of providing additional resources to survivors of human trafficking, and for a bill mandating that employers offer all types of birth control.
On Monday, Time published an editorial by Cecile Richards, the nonprofit’s president, in which she praised the Senator as “an incredible ally” and noted that although he “has long held personal beliefs about abortion…he does not impose those personal beliefs on public policy.”
So, how to reconcile Kaine’s personal beliefs and early record with how he’s voted in recent years? Here’s how Kaine himself summarized his views in an NBC Meet the Press interview last month:
I’m kind of a traditional Catholic. I don’t like it personally. I’m opposed to abortion. And personally I’m opposed to the death penalty. I deeply believe, and not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions. So I’ve taken a position which is quite common among Catholics. I’ve got a personal feeling about abortion, but the right role for government is to let women make their own decisions.
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It is this separation of personal opinion and political record that has some voters worried. Bracey Sherman argues that positions like Kaine’s perpetuate the stigma surrounding abortion and “allow well-intentioned people to have a pass on the harm they cause and separate themselves from the anti-choice crowd.”
Already, the schism has proven controversial, with social media users up up in arms after reports surfaced that Kaine “privately” agreed with Hillary Clinton to support the repeal of the Hyde amendment—which prevents women on government health insurance from having abortion coverage—though he told CNN he planned to do the opposite earlier this month.
The Senator has more consistent when it comes to other issues that matter to women. He co-sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act—which puts the burden on employers to explain why someone is paid less and allows workers to sue for wage discrimination damages—as well as the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which provides protection for victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse.