Speaking at an annual anti-abortion rally and march in Richmond, Republican Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares said Feb. 1 that he opposes the idea that women should be prosecuted for seeking abortions.
“The pro-life message is one of compassion. And there have been some voices in this country saying we should prosecute women who make the decision to have an abortion. That is not right,” he said.
Miyares said the anti-abortion movement should instead focus on backing the work of charities that support struggling mothers.
The attorney general was one of several speakers at the Feb. 1 “Virginia March for Life,” the first time the annual event has taken place since last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
A crowd of around 1,500 attendees, according to Capitol Police, rallied on Capitol Square for the series of speeches before marching peacefully through adjacent streets. Speakers celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision and exhorted attendees to mobilize and press their elected officials to do more to restrict abortion in Virginia, which has some of the South’s most permissive laws.
“Today is our chance to make our voices heard and for them to see that this matters to Virginians. And to get a picture that we are the kinds of people that are going to show up, and we’re going to take this issue all the way to the ballot box,” said Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation of Virginia.
Every seat in the General Assembly will be on the ballot in November.
For a second year, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin joined the crowd after the speeches. He gave brief remarks before the march stepped off.
Youngkin said he was “incredibly disappointed” with Democrats who control the state Senate, who so far this legislative session have proudly blocked a series of measures that would restriction abortion access. Democrats have also pursued a resolution that would start a years-long process of enshrining abortion protections into the state constitution, though that legislation has been defeated in the GOP-led House.
“They’re out of touch with Virginians, and that’s why we’re here today,” he said.
After the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year, Youngkin said he hoped lawmakers in the politically divided General Assembly would send a bill to his desk banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
That bill and others were defeated last week in the Senate.
“The truth is, as long as Senate Democrats have our majority, the brick wall will stand strong, and these extreme bills will never pass,” Sen. L. Louise Lucas said at the time.
House Republicans have been advancing an adoption tax credit, a bill mandating certain counseling before an abortion and a measure that aims to protect any infant born alive after an attempted abortion. Abortion-rights advocates say medical professionals are already obligated to provide appropriate medical care in such situations.
Other more restrictive abortion measures have not received a hearing in that chamber.
Miyares, in his remarks, did not mention any particular elected official. But Alabama’s attorney general has recently drawn attention for remarks that initially suggested pregnant women could be prosecuted for taking the abortion pill.
Many of the Virginia abortion-restriction bills lawmakers have considered this session would have penalized medical providers, not patients, for violations of their provisions.
Miyares, as one of his first acts as attorney general, altered the state’s position on the abortion case before the Supreme Court last year. His office argued that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which affirmed the constitutional right to an abortion, and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey case, which reaffirmed Roe but set a new standard on evaluating restrictions, “were wrongly decided.”