Vice President Kamala Harris made a historic stop at Planned Parenthood's St. Paul facility with Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday in an election-year effort to underscore the commitment of President Joe Biden to reproductive care.

The vice president's office said the visit marks the first by a sitting president or vice president to a clinic that provides abortions, but Harris emphasized the broader scope of care provided there.

"Please do understand that when we talk about a clinic such as this it is absolutely about health care and reproductive health care so everyone get ready for the language: uterus," she said. "That part of the body needs a lot of medical care, people."

Harris briefly toured the facility with Walz, Dr. Sarah Traxler, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood North Central States; Ruth Richardson, Planned Parenthood's regional president and CEO; and U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who represents the area.

The vice president stopped for a few minutes to talk to the reporters packed into the reception room and drive home the administration's commitment to restoring the abortion protections the U.S. Supreme Court scrapped when it overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.

She thanked the clinic employees, Walz, McCollum and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter for maintaining access to care. She denounced restrictions in other states that prevent women from obtaining similar care "within any reasonable distance" of their home.

"I've heard stories of and met with women who've had miscarriages and women who were being denied emergency care because the health care providers there at an emergency room were afraid that, because of the laws in their state, that they could be criminalized, sent to prison for providing health care," she said.

"So I'm here at this health care clinic to uplift the work that is happening in Minnesota as an example of what true leadership looks like," she added.

Before leaving Minnesota, she made two more stops: a campaign event and a surprise visit to St. Paul Central High School's varsity and junior varsity preseason girls' softball practice.

At the clinic, Harris said it is always right for people to have access to needed health care in an environment where they are treated with dignity.

"Contraceptive care. That is the kind of care that happens here in addition to abortion care," she said.

Traxler said traveling to receive health care is intimidating and overwhelming for women and told of a patient who drove "hundreds and hundreds of miles" in a blizzard to get an abortion. "Our new abortion landscape. It is dangerous and it is putting our patients and health care providers at severe risk," Traxler said.

The St. Paul facility, part of Planned Parenthood North Central States, provides health care and sex education for all regardless of whether they have insurance. Traxler said visits from patients who don't live in Minnesota have doubled since Roe was overturned.

The Harris visit drove home the extent to which Democrats will highlight their support for reproductive care in the 2024 election where the president and Harris face a tough re-election fight against former President Donald Trump. In contrast, Trump appointed three of the Supreme Court justices who overturned the 50-year-old Roe decision.

A week ago, Biden emphasized his commitment to reproductive freedom and care in his State of the Union speech. Since then, Harris has been on a multistate tour demonstrating the administration's support for reproductive care.

"We have to be a nation that trusts women," she said.

When asked to address the 19% of voters who chose uncommitted in Minnesota's DFL presidential primary on March 5, Harris instead chose to stay on the topic of health care.

Minnesota has more abortion protections than most states. In 2023, the DFL-controlled Legislature and Walz codified abortion rights here.

Planned Parenthood North Central States covers Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. The Dakotas ban abortion; Nebraska has a 12-week abortion ban. Iowa lawmakers convened a special session last year to pass a near total abortion ban; the legislation is on hold during a legal challenge.

More recently, an Alabama Supreme Court ruling jeopardized IVF treatments in that state by declaring that fertilized eggs should be afforded the same legal protections as children. Walz said he wants the current Legislature to protect the procedure.

Amid heavy security at Planned Parenthood, a few sign-carrying protesters stood across the street near the busy University Avenue and Vandalia Street intersection.

Scott Pike of Falcon Heights said he has protested in front of the clinic for a decade. He demonstrates, he said, because he believes life begins at conception and considers abortion to be murder.

"If I were still in the womb, I would have value," Pike said. "Everything was there to make me who I am today."

A group of protesters, one holding a large Palestinian flag, was seen near her next stop, a campaign event at the Coven, a co-working space in the Blair Arcade near Cathedral Hill in St. Paul. They were part of the Minnesota Abortion Action Committee, an abortion rights group also calling for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza.

The vice president spoke to about 100 women as part of the Women For Biden-Harris initiative. She praised the DFL accomplishments of the 2023 legislative session, telling them they "have once again demonstrated to our nation just how much progress a Democratic trifecta can make."

She also talked about Biden's accomplishments, including forgiving large amounts of student loan debt, investing in female entrepreneurs and small-business owners, and limiting prescription drug costs for seniors.

After she finished, Walz led the crowd in a chant of "Four more years!"

At Central High, excitement greeted Harris in the gym as the softball players realized who she was.

As the high school girls formed a circle around her, she told them: "You guys are the reason that I do what I do."

The vice president watched some ground-ball drills and shagged a stray ball. "I'm really impressed," she said twice. One player, wearing a crimson Harvard sweatshirt, exchanged a high-five with Harris and then looked down at her hand in seeming amazement, mouth agape, according to the pool report from the event.

The state GOP didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Staff writer Eder Campuzano contributed to this report.