In new ads, GOP candidates brazenly misrepresent their position on abortion
In a new ad running in Minnesota, Scott Jensen, the Republican nominee for governor, says abortion is a "protected constitutional right" in the state, and he's "not running" to change that.
Jensen's ad makes sense politically. A June poll found that two-thirds of likely voters in Minnesota oppose abortion bans and support abortion rights in the first trimester of pregnancy. 80% of likely voters support abortion rights in cases of rape or incest.
But Jensen's ad directly contradicts what he and his campaign have said for well over a year. Jensen has been explicit that he is running for governor, in part, to ban abortion.
A campaign ad that ran on Facebook in March and April 2021 pledged that "Dr. Scott Jensen will PROTECT the life of the UNBORN as Governor" and described Jensen as a "PRO-LIFE CHAMPION."
Jensen's campaign ran similar ads on Facebook in October 2021 and November 2021. A Facebook ad from January 2022, encourages voters to support Jensen for Governor to "make Minnesota a PRO-LIFE STATE."
In a March 2022 interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Jensen said that, as governor, he would "try to ban abortion." He said there was no reason to protect abortion rights because of the "availability of birth control." In a May 2022 interview, Jensen clearly said he opposed abortion even in cases of rape or incest because "life begins at conception." (Jensen said the only "potential exception" he would consider is an abortion necessary to save the life of the mother.)
Jensen's views on abortion are shared by Matt Birk, who Jensen chose to run alongside him as the nominee for lieutenant governor. "Rape is a horrible thing. Let me tell you: Abortion is not going to heal a rape victim. It will only make things worse," Birk told an anti-abortion convention in 2020.
As recently as July 3, Jensen's campaign website said, "While not every child is born into ideal circumstances, every life matters. His Christian faith compels him to fight for the least among us and that starts with unborn children." That language has now been deleted.
A new page on Jensen's campaign website was added in July, claiming that the overturning of Roe v. Wade has "no impact" on Minnesota. In a 14-minute video that accompanies the new page, Jensen says that, for Minnesota, abortion rights are "not on the ballot in November." Jensen also reverses his previously stated position and says that rape and incest are "acceptable exceptions" to an abortion ban. (Birk, who appears with Jensen in the video, says that "deep down, women don't really want to have abortions.")
Jensen is correct that a 1995 decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court, Doe v. Gomez, protects the right to abortion in Minnesota. But just as the current Supreme Court overturned Roe, a future Minnesota Supreme Court could overturn Gomez. And, as Governor, Jensen would have a significant role in determining the composition of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Members of the Minnesota Supreme Court are elected to six-year terms. But if a justice dies or retires before the end of their term, the Governor fills the vacancy. All seven current members of the Minnesota Supreme Court were initially appointed to their position by the governor.
So Jensen's new ad not only contradicts his own statements during the campaign but the power of the Governor to influence abortion rights in Minnesota. And Jensen isn't the only anti-abortion Republican looking to mislead voters to win an election.
O’Dea, who supported Trump's SCOTUS nominees that overturned Roe, touts his support for abortion rights
In Colorado, Joe O’Dea, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, has run multiple ads claiming that he will “vote to protect a woman’s right to choose.” One video, which features O’Dea’s daughter promoting his alleged support for reproductive rights, calls him an “an abortion rights candidate.” Many of O’Dea’s actions, however, speak otherwise.
A section on O’Dea’s website promotes endorsements from “[p]ro-life leaders.” It features an open letter written by “pro-life Republicans and proud Colorado conservatives” backing O’Dea, which states O’Dea supports “strong and much needed restrictions on abortion.” O’Dea also opposes the Women’s Health Protection Act, a federal bill that would “protect a person’s ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy.”
According to Axios, O’Dea also “voted for a failed 2020 ballot measure to ban abortions after 22 weeks of gestation,” a measure that was opposed by “[a]bout 60%” of Coloradans. O’Dea recently said that he “would outlaw abortions except in cases of rape, incest or medical necessity after 20 weeks.”
O’Dea also opposed the Reproductive Health Equity Act in Colorado, which codifies “a person’s fundamental right to make reproductive health-care decisions,” including the right to “have an abortion.” O’Dea called the Act, which was signed into law by Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) in April, “reckless.”
O’Dea has faced criticism from his opponent, Senator Michael Bennet (D), for claiming to support abortion rights while stating that he “would have supported Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett,” all of whom voted to overturn Roe. O’Dea additionally voted twice for former president Donald Trump, who nominated Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett.
According to Politico, Republican candidates across the country have been working to “soften” their image and abortion positions post-Dobbs in order to attract women voters. In Ohio, Arizona, and Nevada, Republican candidates have all released ads of their wives speaking “directly to the camera about their character.” A number of Republicans have also been caught removing anti-abortion messaging from their websites in order to “decentralize opposing abortion” in their campaign, while other members of the GOP have simply stopped “bring[ing] up the topic” as frequently.