Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Says He Won't Prosecute Women for Abortions

Commonwealth's Attorney Steve Descano said his stance on prosecuting women for getting abortions reflects opinions in the area and his discretion as a prosecutor

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The top prosecutor in Fairfax County, Virginia, said he would refuse to pursue criminal charges against women who get abortions, regardless of what state law says if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. 

Commonwealth's Attorney Steve Descano published an essay in The New York Times on Tuesday titled, “My Governor Can Pass Bad Abortion Laws. But I Won’t Enforce Them.” 

In an interview with News4, he said his stance reflects opinions in the area and his discretion as a prosecutor. 

“It is what the community that I represent wants. The job of the local, elected prosecutor is to bring the values of the community into the courthouse,” Descano said. 

He said he published the essay in the Times because he wants to “encourage my brother and sister prosecutors around the country to take this stand and do the exact same thing, because it’s the right thing to do.” 

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has refused to address how his personal anti-abortion stance would translate into state policy if Roe falls. In an interview on the campaign trail last year, he said he supported abortion only in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s health is in jeopardy.

Youngkin also has indicated support for a bill in the U.S. Congress that sought to make abortion a crime after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Descano was elected commonwealth’s attorney in Fairfax County, the state’s most populous county, with more than 1 million residents, in 2019.

He said Tuesday that he knows the essay could draw backlash, including from the governor. 

“He could put an enormous amount of pressure on me for taking this stand, and it would be political pressure, it would be public pressure,” Descano said. “But at the end of the day, I know that the law is on my side. Making these types of decisions is the discretion that a local, elected prosecutor uses every day to do his job.” 

Descano noted in his essay that he received a death threat over his stance on abortion prosecutions.

The offices of Youngkin and Attorney General Jason Miyares declined comment for this story. 

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