Over the past week, several court rulings surrounding access to the abortion medication mifepristone have been issued, and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has weighed in without actually weighing in, saying that he doesn’t “have much of an opinion.”
Mifepristone is the first of a two-drug regimen used in the majority of abortions in the United States.
“I don’t have much of an opinion other than that’s a judge’s ruling…and it seems like there is some of the legal process that’s still to go, with the different ruling someplace else,” the governor said Monday when asked to share his thoughts on the cases surrounding mifepristone. “As a governor, I’m just doing my job. And we’ll just have to wait to see how that gets finalized.”
Youngkin’s comments are especially notable considering the Texas judge’s decision could affect women in Virginia, limiting their reproductive freedom.
On April 7, US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee, ordered a hold on the federal approval of mifepristone, overruling decades of scientific approval precedents and hundreds of studies documenting the drug’s safety in abortion care.
At almost the same time, Obama-appointed US District Judge Thomas O. Rice issued a ruling basically doing the exact opposite. And on Wednesday, a federal appeals court partially blocked Kacsmaryk’s decision, which maintains mifepristone’s availability for now, but severely limits access.
While the 5th Circuit’s decision is marginally less extreme than Kacsmaryk’s, it nonetheless drew widespread criticism from reproductive health advocates, legal experts, and Democrats on Thursday.
In Virginia, however, Gov. Youngkin is the one drawing criticism for his comments on the situation.
Virginia Democrats called Youngkin’s statement a “stunning abdication of his responsibilities as Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
“As governor, I don’t see how you can ‘not have much of an opinion’ on a Texas judge preventing the women of your Commonwealth from having safe and legal access to reproductive care,” Liam Watson, press secretary for the Democratic Party of Virginia said in a statement. “Mifepristone isn’t just used in abortions, it’s also a commonly prescribed drug for miscarriage care. Voters sent [Youngkin] to Richmond to have an opinion – it’s time he acts like he actually cares about the Virginians he pretends to serve.”
Jeff E. Schapiro, a political columnist for the Virginia-Times Dispatch wrote in a piece that, when he recently tried to speak with Youngkin about his proposed ban on most abortions and Kacsmaryk’s ruling, Youngkin told him that they “were not going to have a conversation.”
“When the going gets tough, the timid talk about something else,” Schapiro wrote.
It’s worth noting that despite this week’s rulings and Youngkin’s weak comments, medication abortions will continue to be available in the state of Virginia, according to providers, though the way they provide care could change.
The Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, which provides about one-third of the state’s abortion services, is making back-up plans to shift from the current regimen—two doses of mifepristone paired with the drug misoprostol—to a misoprostol-only method.
“There is some concern about some increased bleeding and cramping without being able to use [mifepristone] first for those medication abortions,” Jamie Lockhart, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, told NPR. “And so, some people may then choose to have abortion procedures instead. But we want to be clear that it’s incredibly safe and effective as well.”
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