ST. PAUL, Minn. -- DFL Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday took an aim at his presumptive GOP challenger Dr. Scott Jensen for his views on abortion, framing November's election as a referendum on abortion rights as the overturning of Roe v. Wade
Walz, joined by Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and other pro-abortion rights advocates, attacked Jensen's position on abortion as extreme and cast him as a dangerous candidate out-of-step with Minnesotans' views on the issue.
"Reproductive rights are on the ballot in November," Walz said at a news conference. "This isn't a nuanced position between myself and my opponent. This as far as the Grand Canyon could be in how we view women and how we view health care."
The race between Walz and Jensen is close, according to the latest polling from MinnPost. That same survey found that 67% of Minnesota likely voters oppose a ban on abortions in all circumstances.
And 64% percent say it should be legal in the first trimester, with higher marks among women and different feelings for voters depending on where they live and what political party they identify with, according to the survey data. Most abortions in Minnesota, according to latest state health data, occur in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
In Minnesota, abortions are legal up to fetal viability and the procedure is allowed later if the pregnancy threatens the life or the health of the patient. The state has its own abortion protections in the state constitution because of a Minnesota Supreme Court decision in 1995. But there are some restrictions, like a 24-hour waiting period.
Jensen, a physician from Chaska and the Republican Party-endorsed candidate, has said he supports an abortion ban on abortion, including in cases of rape or incest, except for when a mother's life is at risk.
Jensen was not available for interview Tuesday. His campaign pointed to a video in which Jensen said overturning Roe gives candidates an opportunity for a "big discussion" on abortion.
"For me, we're dealing with two lives. And if someone else looks at it differently, I get that," Jensen said in part. "To me, rape and incest as considerations would fall within the realm of 'is a mother's life in danger.' I think the mother's life can be in danger quite readily without us seeing it, particularly in regard to suicidal ideation."
Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Jensen said in a statement he would "seek out loving and caring alternatives" like universal adoption, family planning measures, medical assistance, and others that value people "both born and unborn."
Walz said Tuesday that he supports the timelines for abortions allowed by current law and that he does not support "up-to-the-moment-of-birth" late-term abortions, which is how Jensen has characterized his position.
"Not one time have I ever said that," Walz said of Jensen's attack.
He said the decision to undo federal constitutional protections for abortion will impact dynamics for the race for Democrats and ignite voters.
"This decision changes everything," Walz said.
Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance in the Hubert H. Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota, called the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade a "game changer" in November's election, especially for Democrats in "significant peril."
"It is going to give an issue to Democrats, such as Gov. Walz, to make abortion front and center and make the election a referendum on access to abortion," he said.
But Jensen's position on abortion could hurt him in a general election match-up, Jacobs said.
"Up to this point, it looked as if suburban women—who are so important to statewide DFL candidates—were really up for grabs, particularly because of inflation and crime," he said. "Now the abortion issue and the strong stance the governor has taken in declaring he will defend and maintain access to abortion and looking to create a 'safe haven' in Minnesota for those coming from other states really puts Jensen in a bind."
The MinnPost survey showed 75% of women in Minnesota opposed banning abortion in all circumstances.
Walz over the weekenddirecting state agencies not to assist other states' attempts to seek civil, criminal or professional sanctions against anyone seeking, providing or obtaining legal abortion services in Minnesota.
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