Jensen says he can’t take away abortion rights in Minnesota — he’s wrong

September 9, 2022 6:13 am

GOP gubernatorial nominee Scott Jensen and running mate Matt Birk hold a press conference at the Minnesota State Fair on Tuesday, Aug. 30. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota Reformer.

During his campaign to win the Republican nomination for governor, Scott Jensen clearly and unambiguously supported banning abortion.  

For instance, in March, a Minnesota Public Radio reporter asked Jensen, “If you were governor, would you try to impose new restrictions on abortion? Or would you try to ban it outright?” 

His answer: “I would try to ban abortion.” You can’t get much clearer than that.

Now, after the Republican primary election and facing voters hostile to his anti-abortion extremism, Jensen is running a new ad attempting to assure wary voters that he can’t ban abortion in Minnesota anyway, because the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that the state constitution guarantees a right to abortion. 

He is wrong. Minnesotans can lose the current state constitutional right to abortion — simply look south to our neighbors in Iowa. It all changed when GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds took office in 2017.   

It took just a few short years for the GOP to orchestrate a seismic shift in the Iowa Supreme Court. Don’t think that can’t happen in Minnesota. 

Much like current abortion protections in Minnesota, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that “a woman’s right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy is a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution.” 

After that ruling, anti-abortion politicians enacted a series of policies that severely limited access, such as defunding Planned Parenthood clinics, defunding comprehensive sex education programs, and passing abortion bans — bans that will incite court challenges affording different judges the chance to reconsider precedent.

Reynolds and her predecessor have appointed five Supreme Court justices, building a strong conservative majority on the bench. Right now, all Iowa Supreme Court justices have been appointed by governors who oppose abortion rights. 

Fast forward to June 2022, the Iowa Supreme Court didn’t think twice about “stare decisis,” fulfilling the role they were put there to do: They overturned past judicial precedents and reversed the decision that purported to secure a right to abortion in the state constitution. 

A few weeks later, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned abortion rights at the federal level, following the exact same playbook as Iowa: Elect anti-abortion politicians who appoint supreme court justices, who take away abortion rights. 

Now, with nothing protecting abortion in Iowa, the Iowa Legislature can completely ban abortion, which it is unfortunately expected to do.

The lesson from Iowa and the federal Dobbs decision is crystal clear — if you want to preserve reproductive freedom in Minnesota, we cannot elect anti-abortion politicians like Jensen. The U.S. Supreme Court gave state politicians the power to control our rights, and they will do it. 

We can’t count on the courts to protect our rights at the federal or state level. The overturning of Roe v. Wade means that we must take control of our reproductive freedom by showing up at the ballot box. Our rights and access to reproductive health care, including safe, legal abortion, depend on elected leaders at all levels of government. This year gives us the best chance we’ve ever had to win an abortion rights trifecta for the first time in Minnesota history. 

And, Minnesotans are coming together to fight for our rights this fall. Over 10,000 Minnesotans have signed up to volunteer with Planned Parenthood Action Fund this year. There is momentum and action across our state, and we will work together to show up this election season. 

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Tim Stanley
Tim Stanley

Tim Stanley is the executive director of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund.