Matt Birk, the running mate and lieutenant governor candidate for Republican governor hopeful Scott Jensen, is under the spotlight for a series of remarks he made about abortion, rape, and the role of women on the day that the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.
Video shared by liberal media outlet the Heartland Signal on social media shows Birk speaking to the National Right to Life Council in Georgia on June 24, with his comments drawing major rebuke this week from Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov Peggy Flanagan, Jensen's and Birk's Democratic opponents this November.
Among the comments made by Birk was one in which he links abortions to a "culture" in which women – among other things – pursue careers.
"Our culture loudly but also stealthily promotes abortion. They’re telling women they should look a certain way. They should have careers, all these things," he said.
As well as comparing the effort to ban abortions to the movement to overturn slavery, he goes on to discuss abortions resulting from rape, accusing Democrats of "playing the rape card" when discussing abortion care, and confirms he doesn't believe there should be an exception in abortion bans for rape.
"Rape is obviously a horrible thing. But an abortion is not going to heal the wounds of that. Two wrongs, it’s not going to make it right ... One of the arguments that I saw probably 20 times online today was about rape. And you know, obviously, they always want to go to the rape card," he said.
These comments were made before instances seen in the wake of Roe vs. Wade being overturned of people – including in one notable case a 10-year-old child – struggling to access abortion care in their states following rape.
Jensen has confirmed during his campaign that he would back the overturning of Minnesota's abortion protections should he beat Walz in November, with Republicans also likely to seek banning or restricting abortion should they win control of Minnesota's Legislature.
Jensen has previously stated that he would not approve an exception for rape or incest in any abortion ban, unless the life of the pregnant party was at risk. He has since tried to backtrack on this, suggesting that mental health impact on the individual could also be considered as putting their life at risk.
On Tuesday, Walz and Flanagan held a press conference along with a number of sexual assault survivors, during which Flanagan said she is likely to be "a broken record on this for the next several months."
"But it is what is required of me as a mother and as someone who is responsible for protecting the health and safety of Minnesotans,” she added.
"These disturbing remarks are disrespectful toward survivors and the policy is even worse. The Jensen-Birk abortion ban would force survivors to live the lives their rapists chose for them rather than ones they wanted for themselves,” she added.
In response, the Jensen and Birk campaign accused Walz and Flanagan of being a "single-issue campaign" while ignoring other major issues facing Minnesotans.