Lt. Gov. candidate Matt Birk defends abortion, rape comments amid criticism

The Republican candidate for Minnesota lieutenant governor is standing by comments he made about abortion and rape at an anti-abortion rights rally last month.

Matt Birk, the running mate of GOP governor candidate Dr. Scott Jensen, spoke at a National Right to Life Conference in Georgia on June 24 – the day that Roe v. Wade was overturned.

"Our culture loudly, but also stealthy promotes abortion, telling women they should look a certain way, have careers, and all these things," Birk said. He went on to say that "rape is a horrible thing, but abortion is not going to heal the wounds of that… Two wrongs is not going to make it right."

He later said abortion rights advocates are "always going to the rape card" to win support for their position. Birk compared the morality of legal slavery to legal abortion, saying, "some women used to not be able to vote in this country… Now we let them drive."

In a Wednesday social media post, Birk did not back away from the comments.

"I've done over 200 pro-life events over the last 10 years, and I've given the same speech pretty much every time," he said.

The Minnesota DFL and Democratic Gov. Tim Walz's campaign publicized the month-old video this week. Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan have sought to make abortion a major issue in the campaign.

"Minnesotans can’t afford to elect anti-choice leaders who do not trust or respect survivors of rape or incest," Flanagan said in a tweet on Tuesday, the same day she held a news conference at the state Capitol on the topic.

In response, Jensen and Birk's campaign released a statement that said the Walz-Flanagan ticket "has turned into a single-issue campaign."

"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 and Birk said in the statement.

That was in reference to Walz's comments earlier in the week, when he said Minnesota should not appeal after a Ramsey County judge struck down many of the state's abortion restrictions - including a 24-hour waiting period and two-party parental notification - as unconstitutional. DFL Attorney General Keith Ellison has not said whether he will file an appeal in the case.

Jensen and Birk said Walz was failing to focus on the effects of inflation and crime.