The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Virginians deserve to know where Glenn Youngkin stands on abortion

Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for Virginia governor, gives a speech on June 30 in Ashburn, Va. (Michael Blackshire/The Washington Post)
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To be “really honest” — as Glenn Youngkin, Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, likes to say — Mr. Youngkin seems reluctant to be really honest with voters, particularly about his views on abortion. In a video recorded at a campaign event last month, Mr. Youngkin, whose television advertising plays up his background as a businessman, not a politician, makes clear that where it concerns his antiabortion policy views, he has mastered the art of political dissembling.

Mr. Youngkin made a fortune in private equity; his positions on a range of policy questions are unknown — his website is silent on the issues — and ambiguity is central to his campaign. But Virginians deserve to know his plans if he’s elected.

On abortion, Mr. Youngkin is determined to keep them in the dark. In the video, he responds to a questioner who asks whether he will “take it to the abortionists” as follows: “I’m going to be really honest with you. The short answer is in this campaign, I can’t. When I’m governor and I have a majority in the House, we can start going on offense. But as a campaign topic, sadly, that in fact won’t win my independent votes that I have to get.”

Later in the video, released by a liberal activist who recorded it at a Republican campaign event last month in Loudoun County, Mr. Youngkin asserts that he is “staunchly, unabashedly pro-life.” And during the GOP nominating contest he vowed to “stand for the unborn and protect the unborn like never before.” So how exactly would he go “on offense” if elected?

Would he impose regulations designed to shutter abortion clinics, as former Republican Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli did nearly a decade ago? Would he seek legislation that would effectively ban abortions if the Supreme Court grants states leeway to do so, as it may in a case scheduled to be argued later this year? Does he favor outlawing abortion from the moment a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy?

A solid majority of Virginians — 58 percent in a 2019 Post-Schar School poll — believe the state’s abortion laws should remain the same or become less strict. Mr. Youngkin’s views are obviously out of step with that majority; he wants to go “on offense” to make abortion access harder. Hence his cagey dodge on the campaign trail, for fear of alienating suburban and swing voters, especially women.

Silence is strategy for Mr. Youngkin. The night he won the GOP nomination, he told cheering Republicans he would “protect … our right to keep and bear arms.” But since then he has avoided any specifics about his stance on gun control, where most Virginians want tighter laws. During the nominating contest, he dodged questions about whether President Biden was fairly elected; after Mr. Youngkin won, he acknowledged that Mr. Biden was — while still insisting Virginia needs new rules to combat election fraud, which has been all but nonexistent in the state’s voting.

In his ads, Mr. Youngkin calls himself a “new kind of leader.” But so far his campaign is based on old-time political tricks.

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Jennifer Rubin: Glenn Youngkin is no moderate. He’s a staunch right-winger.

The Post’s View: So far, Glenn Youngkin is mastering the duck and the dodge