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Virginia Attorney General Miyares defends staying out of abortion pill case

Miyares: 'I agree with the governor. I think particularly in ... a swing state like Virginia, that it’s important to try to find consensus.'
Virginia Candidate Forum
Posted at 1:29 PM, May 10, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has defended his decision not to join most of his Republican counterparts around the country in supporting a lawsuit challenging the safety and approval of the abortion medication mifepristone.

In a wide-ranging interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Miyares said he opted not to sign onto the amicus brief by 22 other Republican attorneys general earlier this year because he had concerns about whether the plaintiffs in the case had standing to sue.

In response to a follow-up question from AP, Miyares said in a statement that he recognizes that the Food and Drug Administration regulates the drug and “has for many years.”

“Those regulations remain operative," he said. "I’ve taken no action regarding mifepristone."

Although Miyares said he expects the drug will remain available, he also endorsed GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin's ambition to restrict access to abortion procedures in Virginia at 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Virginia, which has some of the South's most permissive abortion laws, currently allows the procedure in the first and second trimesters. An abortion is allowed in the third trimester only if three physicians certify that the mother’s mental or physical health is at serious risk.

Youngkin backed failed efforts earlier this year in the politically divided General Assembly to enact a 15-week ban with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, something the governor reiterated his support for in remarks with reporters Monday.

“I agree with the governor," Miyares said. “I think particularly in ... a swing state like Virginia, that it’s important to try to find consensus. I think that's what the governor is trying to do.”

Earlier this week, abortion providers in Virginia, Montana and Kansas filed a lawsuit aimed at preserving access to mifepristone.

Miyares cited polling in arguing that most Virginians don't want abortion banned during the earliest weeks of a pregnancy, nor do they support late-term abortions.

“The mainstream Democratic Party’s position right now is: anytime, anywhere up until the moment of birth after the gender reveal, paid for by taxpayers," he said. “Most Virginians don’t support that, either.”

Democrats say further restrictions on abortion will harm people's health and limit their rights to make their own reproductive decisions.

“MAGA extremists will try any and every tactic to strip away our basic civil rights, and they will not stop at healthcare. ... It is our job to listen to our constituents, not dictate how they live their lives,” House Democratic Leader Don Scott said in a statement Tuesday in response to Youngkin’s remarks.

Miyares has previously sought to stake out a more moderate conservative position on the issue, saying at an anti-abortion rally and march earlier this year that he opposes the idea that people should be prosecuted for seeking abortions.

The 47-year-old, who is in his first term as attorney general after defeating Democratic incumbent Mark Herring in 2021, is a former prosecutor and member of the House of Delegates from Virginia Beach.

He's widely seen in political circles as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2025, along with Republican Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears. Youngkin is prohibited by state law from seeking a second consecutive term.

During the interview, Miyares declined to say whether he's considering a run but said he's “always flattered” when he's asked the question.

“I am right now laser-focused on 2023 legislative races,” he said.

All 140 seats will be on the ballot in November, and Republicans will be looking to defend their House majority and flip the state Senate.

Miyares also declined to say whether he would support former President Donald Trump if he's the GOP presidential nominee next year.

Miyares was among the first Virginia Republican candidates for office to criticize the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, and he has made clear in public statements that he does not believe the false claims spread by Trump that there was widespread fraud in Virginia or across the country in the 2020 election.

“Now’s not the time for me to talk about 2024. There will be a time and a place, and obviously I have a lot of opinions about it,” he said.

Miyares confirmed that several investigations launched by his office are still ongoing, including a review of the events surrounding the fatal shooting at the University of Virginia in November in which three football players were killed and two other students were wounded. UVA asked for the external review after university officials acknowledged that the shooting suspect had been on the radar of the school’s threat-assessment team. Miyares expects that could be done by the end of the year, he said.

Other continuing investigations include an inquiry into allegations of financial improprieties raised by a congressional committee against the Washington Commanders and owner Dan Snyder, and a probe of a northern Virginia school district for both a failure to notify some students of an academic award in a timely way and one elite school's recently overhauled admissions policies.

Miyares also confirmed that his office is continuing an investigation started by Herring into whether priests in Virginia’s Catholic Dioceses sexually abused children and whether church leaders covered up or abetted such crimes.