The Potluck

Minn. physicians criticize Scott Jensen for COVID-19, abortion views

By: - September 16, 2022 11:56 am

A screenshot of Minnesota physicians holding a press conference at the State Capitol on Friday, Sept. 16.

A band of Minnesota physicians on Friday criticized Republican nominee for governor Scott Jensen, condemning a fellow doctor for his advocacy of unscientific COVID-19 treatments and for expressing desire to ban abortion in the state.

At a press conference in the State Capitol, doctors from multiple specialties, such as infectious disease and obstetrics, deplored Jensen for injecting politics into health care and having views that could harm his patients and other Minnesotans.

“We are here as physicians to emphasize that Dr. Jensen’s views and recommendations are far out of step with science, which could result in grievous harm to the health and life of this community and cause additional suffering,” said Dr. Penny Wheeler, former CEO of Allina Health.

On Thursday, the political action committee of the Minnesota Medical Association endorsed Gov. Tim Walz. The association of more than 11,000 Minnesota physicians said it was endorsing the DFL governor for his COVID-19 policies and vaccine promotion, advocacy for abortion access and “common-sense changes to gun laws.” The Minnesota Medical Association’s political arm doesn’t normally endorse candidates in statewide races.

A spokesperson for Jensen’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to the Reformer’s request for comment regarding the press conference.

Jensen earlier this year said he wasn’t vaccinated against COVID-19 and said COVID-19 was a “mild four-day respiratory illness.” He also likened COVID-19 policies to Adolf Hitler’s rise, citing Kristallnacht — two nights in November 1938 when violent mobs destroyed synagogues, businesses and homes.

The Chaska family physician has long said he is merely being “skeptical” of COVID-19 research, saying it’s beneficial to question experts. Jensen took to Facebook live on Friday morning to highlight the benefits of his distrust in COVID-19 scientific research.

Doctors on Friday said Jensen’s skepticism is motivated by politics.

“There’s a difference between healthy skepticism needed to advance the scientific process and political opportunism to divide people,” said Dr. Peter Bornstein, an infectious disease physician. “Dr. Jensen crossed a line from professionalism into politics.”

The doctors also criticized Jensen for his stance on abortion. Jensen has changed his position on abortion multiple times just this year: In April he said he wanted to ban abortion in Minnesota and make the state”as pro-life as we can be. His latest message is that abortion isn’t on the November ballot, incorrectly asserting that governors cannot change abortion law.

Dr. Elizabeth Alabi, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist at Hennepin Healthcare, emphasized the importance of abortion access in Minnesota. She said it’s wrong for politicians to judge who should and shouldn’t be able to get an abortion — including Jensen.

“We have a man (Jensen) who feels like he knows what’s best for girls and women, despite not having a uterus,” Alabi said.

The doctors on Friday highlighted their support for Walz and commended his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and his support for abortions.

“It’s no surprise that the Minnesota Medical Association (PAC) yesterday endorsed Gov. Tim Walz ,” Wheeler said.

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues. For two years she was also a corps member with Report for America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms and news deserts. She lives in St. Paul and likes to knit and watch documentaries in her free time.