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Lt. Gov. Flanagan, assault survivors blast Republican gubernatorial ticket for anti-abortion stances

Peggy Flanagan condemned lieutenant governor candidate Matt Birk’s statements at an anti-abortion group’s gathering in Georgia following the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24. Birk and running mate Scott Jensen called the news conference a distraction from issues like cost of living and crime.

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan speaks to demonstrators outside the Capitol for an abortion access rally on Sunday, July 17, 2022.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and survivors of sexual assault took aim Tuesday, July 19, at Republican gubernatorial front runner Scott Jensen and running mate Matt Birk for their past comments on abortion, including Birk’s recent remark that he opposes abortion for rape victims because “two wrongs won’t make a right.”

At a news conference at the state Capitol, Flanagan condemned lieutenant governor candidate Birk’s statements at an anti-abortion group’s gathering in Georgia following the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24. In addition to voicing his opposition to abortion in cases of rape, Birk said American culture “stealthily” promotes abortion by urging women to pursue careers over having children.

“The Jensen-Birk abortion ban would deny survivors their choice and they would be forced to live the life that the rapist chose for them rather than the lives they chose for themselves,” Flanagan said. “These remarks are disturbing and should disqualify any candidate from running for office.”

Flanagan was joined Tuesday by sexual assault survivors, including Becca Johnson, who said having an abortion gave her a chance to reclaim control over her life.

“Being raped and impregnated destroyed my sense of security and my ability to speak up for myself,” Johnson said. “I was able to build a life for myself and my family because of the freedom and the right to choose.”

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In a joint statement responding to Flanagan and Gov. Tim Walz, Jensen and Birk said their Democratic rivals were attempting to shift the focus of the election away from issues such as crime and cost of living.

Walz said he agreed with a district court judge's ruling that deemed several laws unconstitutional and said the attorney general should not appeal it.

“It is very evident that the Walz-Flanagan ticket has turned into a single-issue campaign," the statement said. "They support ending longstanding, bipartisan protections for women receiving abortions in Minnesota, such as a doctor performing the procedure or parental notification that their child had surgery.”

Jensen supports banning abortion in nearly all cases, including in cases of rape and incest.

Democrats in Minnesota have vowed to protect abortion rights in Minnesota following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June, which ended nearly 50 years of federal abortion rights protections. Abortion rights are already protected by the Minnesota Supreme Court decision, Doe. v. Gomez, and advocates scored yet another victory last week with a district court decision blocking other laws restricting the procedure in the state.

Ramsey County Judge Thomas A. Gilligan Jr. on July 11 ruled multiple state laws restricting abortion violated privacy and abortion rights protected by the Minnesota Constitution, blocking laws including a 24-hour waiting period and a requirement minors seeking an abortion get consent from both parents or a court.

At a Sunday abortion rights rally at the Capitol, Walz said he will not ask Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison to appeal the district court ruling, though Ellison said his office is still reviewing the decision. His office has 60 days from the ruling to decide on an appeal.

Ellison has said he would use his office to protect people seeking abortions in Minnesota from prosecution by states where the procedure is illegal.

MORE FROM ALEX DEROSIER:
The statewide office doesn’t always grab headlines in an election year, and the work of the auditor is often not as political or high-profile as other offices says Julie Blaha, a DFLer who is running for her second term in the office.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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