Caryn Sullivan: Scott Jensen and abortion — what’s so extreme?

Walz and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, are trying to scare Minnesotans into believing their reproductive rights are at risk.

Scott Jensen speaks at a press conference at the grand opening of the Minnesota GOP's new Somali outreach office. (Scott Jensen/Twitter)

On Saturday evening, the State Fair became Crime Fair. A shooting turned a brawl involving dozens into mayhem. Imagine the terror of Ferris Wheel riders, suspended in the sky, watching throngs of visitors race towards exits.

On Monday night, The Great Minnesota Get Together featured more brawling. Just another weekend of violence in Minnesota.

Though crime became an epidemic on his watch, Gov. Tim Walz is indignant. This will not stand!

But crime isn’t his primary concern. Incumbent Walz and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, are trying to scare Minnesotans into believing their reproductive rights are at risk.

They insist Republican Dr. Scott Jensen, and his running mate, Matt Birk, are extreme. And, if you’ve been paying attention (especially last Thursday), you’ve learned Republican extremism poses the greatest threat to our country.

So, what are the facts?

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade and said it’s up to each state to determine whether to legalize abortion.

Abortion has been legal in Minnesota since 1995. Nothing has changed.

On the Minnesota Attorney General’s website, Keith Ellison says, “The Minnesota Supreme Court found that the Minnesota Constitution guarantees the right of every Minnesotan to terminate a pregnancy. The Court explicitly found that the Minnesota Constitution offers broader protection than the United States Constitution.”

So, despite what Walz’s aggressive ad campaign alleges, abortion is not in jeopardy.

In fact, abortion protections are stronger than ever. In a decision hailed by litigants as “a huge victory for abortion rights,” in July, a state district court struck down a 24-hour waiting period, dual parent notification of a minor’s plan to abort, informed consent provisions, and restrictions on where abortions can be performed and by whom.

Attorney General Ellison decided not to appeal, saying it would be futile.

With that back drop, the only way abortion rights would be lost is if both houses of the state legislature voted in favor of advancing a constitutional amendment and a majority of voters gave it a thumbs up.

So, what is true?

Jensen and Birk are unabashedly pro-life.

When Jensen launched his candidacy, he had no idea Roe v. Wade would be overturned. Any discussion about abortion was theoretical. That hasn’t changed.

He built a campaign focused on issues that directly impact most Minnesotans — crime, education, and the cost of living.

Over and over, both Jensen and Birk have insisted abortion is not on the ballot in November.

And yet, Democrats launched an aggressive ad campaign to convince voters reproductive rights would be in jeopardy under a Jensen administration. They continue to spread the lie on social media.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 10,136 women had abortions in 2021, 90 percent of them Minnesota residents. The balance came from neighboring states, mostly Wisconsin.

The vast majority were unmarried white women in their twenties who had previously given birth. Nearly 75 percent had high school, college, and graduate level educations. Girls under 18 underwent 200 abortions.

Though some late-term abortions occur, Minnesota women overwhelmingly have abortions within 10 weeks of conception.

Nearly half the women had undergone a previous abortion, 21 of them nine or more times. As to their reasons, only 55 individuals cited rape or incest; roughly 60 percent cited economics or poor timing.

I’ve spoken with Jensen about his position on abortion. He recently released a video in which he elaborated on it.

Jensen recognizes the reality in Minnesota. Polling shows 2/3 of voters oppose a ban on abortion and 2/3 oppose third trimester abortions. “These are the guardrails,” he said.

“When I talk about abortion, my view isn’t the view of a politician,” he said, “but a family doctor who has delivered 500 babies.”

“All people have unexpected things happen in their lives,” Jensen said. “We have to look at abortion with fairness and thoughtfulness.”

He sees an opportunity to build bridges, not throw bombs. “We have to be more than rigidly against abortion,” he said. So, rather than seeking an abortion ban, he’d work towards making it less necessary by focusing on prevention and adoption.

Jensen advocates capping the price of birth control pills; making the morning after pill readily available; and pushing for health insurance to cover vasectomies and tubal ligations.

“If we can help people to get safe and effective birth control, there’s less risk of infertility when they do want to get pregnant,” he said.

I’m missing the extreme part of what sounds like a thoughtful approach to a highly emotional and divisive issue. In fact, it reminds me of the position Bill Clinton took nearly 30 years ago.

In 1993, Clinton said abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. That year, there were more than 14,000 abortions in Minnesota. Jensen believes we could further reduce the number, not by legal means, but by practice. “In my ideal world, we’d all work together to make non-medically indicated abortions unnecessary,” he said.


Caryn Sullivan

A retired attorney and author of the award-winning memoir, "Bitter or Better: Grappling With Life on the Op-Ed Page," Caryn Sullivan has inspired readers with her thoughtful commentary for the past two decades. To learn more about Caryn’s work or to connect, visit