A progressive Virginia prosecutor is promising not to enforce abortion laws, including for late-term abortions, if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
"No matter what the law in Virginia says, I will not prosecute a woman for having an abortion, or for being suspected of inducing one," Fairfax County commonwealth's attorney Steve Descano (D.) wrote in a Tuesday New York Times op-ed. A leaked opinion in May revealed the High Court expects to rule against the 1973 landmark decision permitting abortion, returning the issue to the states. Virginia law only prohibits abortions during the third trimester, with exceptions if the mother's life or health is endangered—meaning Descano's pledge would permit late-term abortions in the state.
"When it comes to charging individuals, we are the arbiters of the law," Descano said, encouraging other prosecutors to follow his example.
Descano is among a group of left-wing prosecutors who ascended to office in 2020 following six-figure donations from George Soros. Through his Justice and Public Safety PAC, the Democratic megadonor contributed around $600,000 each to Descano's campaign and to the campaign of Arlington County commonwealth's attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (D.), as well as more than $850,000 to Loudoun County commonwealth's attorney Buta Biberaj (D.). As criminal justice reform candidates, all of them promised bail reform and reduced incarceration in their counties—an approach that has at times permitted violent crimes and increased recidivism.
The Washington Free Beacon reported in March how Descano's office chose not to prosecute an attempted abductor who later was charged with killing two homeless men and wounding three others in Washington, D.C., and New York City. Descano and Dehghani-Tafti also declined to bring felony convictions in May against a serial larcenist who was charged with committing two grand larcenies and assaulting a police officer, the Free Beacon reported on Wednesday.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R.) has signaled openness to further anti-abortion legislation in Virginia but believes the decision is up to the state legislature, in which party control is divided. The Republican-led House of Delegates introduced a proposal for abortion bans after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but in February the bill failed to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Descano claimed without evidence that "women who are suspected of terminating a pregnancy" could be charged with a felony if they miscarry. In reality, a Virginia law would only apply if the mother pursued a chemical abortion before the miscarriage. He further claimed without evidence that law enforcement would be deputized to investigate whether a person has used abortifacients or to breach doctor-patient confidentiality.
"Police may root through her trash bins under the cover of darkness for empty bottles of liquor or beer," Descano said. "Law enforcement may coerce the medical professionals who rendered treatment on one of her darkest days into revealing information she provided in confidence about her medical history. And her past partners may be hauled into police precincts to discuss her sex life."
Descano admitted his claims may "sound alarmist" and proceeded to cite articles in support. The first involved a woman charged in Texas with murder after she was suspected of performing a self-induced abortion. Those charges have been dropped, and little is known about the case. The second involved a woman convicted of manslaughter after she used methamphetamine during her pregnancy. A medical examiner found traces of the drug in the baby's liver and brain.
More than 17,000 abortions took place in Virginia in 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Descano said his decision to not prosecute abortions was founded on "public safety concerns" because "hundreds of women lost their lives" every year before Roe. The deaths often occurred because mothers performed self-induced abortions.