June 24th, 2022, is a day that many of us—especially those of us who can get pregnant—will remember for the rest of our lives: The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, stripping us of our federal constitutional right to abortion and returning abortion laws back to state control.
The ruling in the case (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) ended a 50-year precedent protecting abortion access, and the impact was felt almost immediately as trigger laws went into effect, limiting or banning abortion access in 13 states. More bans expected in the coming months, as anti-abortion extremists seize this opportunity to continue to restrict abortion access at least at the local leve, if not eventually federally.
What this means for any individual person who can get pregnant varies widely based on the laws where you live. Whether you can get pregnant or not, it’s good to be aware of where abortion access stands in your city or state. So how does Roe being overturned impact D.C. area residents?
Abortion Access in the D.C. area post-Roe
Currently, people can still access abortion in the D.C. area. Here’s what you need to know about abortion access in D.C. proper, as well as Maryland and Virginia:
Washington, D.C.: D.C. has some of the least restrictive abortion laws in the country, with abortion being legal at all stages of pregnancy, including late-stage and third-trimester abortions. While abortion is protected by local law, and D.C. lawmakers, reproductive rights activists, and pro-choice health providers have said they’ll work to keep abortion accessible, Congress could try to ban or restrict abortion in D.C. (especially if Republicans win back control of Congress). This is because without statehood, D.C. and its residents don’t have control over their laws or budgets—Congress does. Until and unless abortion becomes federally protected, D.C. remains at the mercy of Congress’ whims.
D.C. also allows telehealth abortion (which means a pregnant individual can consult a medical provider using phone or computer and have pills mailed to their home), and Medicaid cannot be used to fund an abortion, except in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. People younger than 18 do not need to notify or get permission from their parents to get an abortion.
The D.C. Council is looking into making it a “sanctuary city” for those coming from states where abortion is banned. In fact, more than ⅔ of abortions performed in D.C. prior to Roe falling were patients who traveled from other states, according to available federal health data, and abortion rights advocates expect that number to increase as abortion access becomes increasingly curtailed elsewhere.
Maryland: Abortion access is protected in state law in Maryland until the point of viability (meaning the baby can survive if born), after which abortion becomes illegal. While the outgoing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has voiced his personal objection to abortion, he has mostly stayed away from legislating abortion policy, and lawmakers in Maryland recently voted to expand access by allowing health practitioners other than physicians to perform abortions. Maryland allows telehealth abortion, and Medicaid can be used to cover the cost of the abortion.
Virginia: Currently, abortion is legal in Virginia through the second trimester, but must be performed in a hospital in the second trimester, and it is only allowed in the third trimester if three doctors agree that the pregnancy endangers the patient’s life or health. However, abortion access is not protected by state law, which means that it could be more easily restricted in the future than in D.C. or Maryland. Telehealth abortion is allowed, but Medicaid cannot be used to pay for an abortion in Virginia.
Even though abortion is still legal in the D.C. area, legal does not necessarily mean accessible. It can be difficult to find reliable information about your current options regarding abortion and reputable providers in your area (especially with Google maps often leading people seeking an abortion to so-called pregnancy crisis centers instead of abortion clinic), and the cost can be prohibitive. Here are a few local orgs that can help you access abortion care if you find yourself facing barriers:
- Abortion care in D.C.: National Abortion Federation or Metro D.C.’s Planned Parenthood
- Help paying for your abortion: D.C. Abortion Fund
- Support and information if you’re under 18: Young Women’s Project
Not in the D.C. area, or looking for more resources? No matter where you live in the US, there are national abortion and reproductive care resources available to help you safely and privately navigate the laws in your state post-Roe. The following orgs can help you understand your legal rights, point you in the direction of safe providers, and connect you with orgs that can help you pay for your abortion or get counseling before or after:
- Abortion care by state: INeedAnA.com
- Abortion pills by mail: Plan C
- Help paying for your abortion, whether locally or if you need to travel to a state that still allows abortion: National Network of Abortion Funds
- Legal advice and assistance: If/When/How’s Repro Legal Helpline and Repro Defense Fund
- Abortion counseling: Postpartum Support International
- Post-abortion counseling: TherapyDen
Everyone deserves the right to decide if and when to have a child. While we continue to fight for federal abortion protection, it’s important to make sure that everyone who needs an abortion has access to one.
Looking for more information on how to help support and expand access to abortion in D.C.? Check out the ACLU of D.C..