Minnesota GOP Chair David Hann has advised the party's candidates to refer to abortion as a "protected constitutional right" in the state before pivoting to crime, the economy and education, according to a memo shared by several Republicans.
The memo was sent to candidates Friday as the GOP in Minnesota and nationally struggles to find the right message on abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade in June. Democrats have spent the summer hammering Republicans on the issue and have spent millions of dollars on attack ads in the race for Minnesota governor.
The message also marks a shift in tone from the state party's platform adopted in May, which says the U.S. and Minnesota constitutions should be amended to restore legal "protection to the lives of innocent human beings from conception to natural death."
"Here are the facts: Abortion up to the moment of birth is a protected constitutional right in Minnesota," Hann wrote in the memo. "The only two ways this can be changed are by the Minnesota Supreme Court overturning existing law or by Minnesota voters passing a state referendum.
"Since abortion is not on the ballot, let's talk about the ongoing issues that affect Minnesotans every day: crime, inflation, the economy and education."
The party did not respond to requests for comment after past former Minnesota GOP Deputy Chair Michael Brodkorb and the Libertarian group Action 4 Liberty separately posted the memo.
"As we gear up for the final stretch of election season, the Democrats and the media will continue to try and bait you with questions about issues, most particularly abortion," Hann wrote in the memo.
He added that the state party and "key stakeholders have developed and tested" the message.
Abortion access in Minnesota is protected under a 1995 state Supreme Court ruling known as Doe v. Gomez. In July, a Ramsey County district judge struck down a handful of longstanding state abortion regulations, further expanding access to the procedure in the state.
Minnesota Republicans have tried to carefully calculate their stance on the issue in a post-Roe world, attempting to balance the interests of steadfast abortion foes in their party while staking out a position palatable to a broader set of voters in November.
Some have shifted their position or added emphasis to their support for abortion exceptions in cases of rape or incest. In the spring, Republican governor candidate Scott Jensen said in several interviews that he'd move to ban abortion if he were governor. By July, he had changed his position and promised that if elected, he would not to try to outlaw the procedure.
In his first television ad released this month, Jensen holds his newborn grandbaby and tells viewers that abortion "is a protected constitutional right and no governor can change that. And I'm not running to do that."
Abortion is among the top three issues for voters in the governor's race, according to the latest Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 Minnesota Poll, coming in close behind the economy and crime. The poll also found more than half of Minnesotans oppose the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and say they think abortions should be legal in most or all cases.