Local abortion laws have come back into focus after a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court suggested it could overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the U.S.
Currently, 23 states have either laws limiting abortion that predate the original Roe v. Wade or “trigger” laws that would restrict or outright ban abortion if Roe was overturned, according to the abortion rights Guttmacher Institute. Meanwhile, another 16 states have laws protecting access to abortion.
Locally, D.C., Maryland and Virginia generally don’t restrict access to abortions, but each have some unique considerations.
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The District has some of the fewest abortion restrictions in the country, allowing both third trimester and late-term abortions.
WTOP news partner NBC Washington reported that the D.C. Council passed the Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Amendment Act in 2017, which made it illegal to discriminate against health care professionals that provide abortions or publicly support the procedure. It was an amendment to the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977.
But there’s a catch: D.C.’s laws and budget are subject to federal government oversight. As NBC Washington reported, if Republicans take control of Congress in the midterm elections this fall, it could put D.C.’s access to abortion on shakier ground.
Mayor Muriel Bowser called D.C. “a pro-choice city” in a Tuesday rally with the District’s lone, non-voting (since the District isn’t a state) congressional representative, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton:
“If this is the decision, I’m ready to fight,” Norton said. “Many states will be able to decide for themselves. Until the District gets statehood, we cannot make that decision for ourselves.”
Maryland legalized abortion up until the point of viability in a 1992 ballot initiative. Viability usually means around 24 weeks, but ultimately depends on a doctor’s judgment.
Those who are seeking an abortion after the point of viability can do so if the mother’s life or health is in danger or if the fetus has a genetic defect, serious deformity or abnormality, per NBC Washington. Anyone who is under 18 and can obtain one legally, but the health care professional performing the procedure must notified at least one parent before the abortion.
Following this year’s General Assembly session, the Baltimore Sun reported that a new law in Maryland will allow nurse practitioners, physician assistants and midwives to perform abortions, along with physicians.
The Democrat-controlled state legislature overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of the law, which takes effect on July 1.
The commonwealth allows abortion in the first and second trimesters.
However, public employees cannot have abortions covered by their insurance plans except in cases of rape, incest, fetal impairment or life endangerment. The same goes for public funding of abortion. And just like in Maryland, those under 18 need to get parental consent before having an abortion.
NBC Washington reported that third trimester abortions are legal in the state if continuing the pregnancy “is likely to result in the death of the woman or substantially and irremediably impair the mental or physical health of the woman.”
Virginia’s status as a purple state has made abortion a fraught topic in recent years.
Anti-abortion supporters have been critical of the law allowing third-trimester abortions and Gov. Ralph Northam’s comments to WTOP on the matter in 2019. Abortion supporters have criticized Republican-led legislatures in the past for regulating abortion clinics like hospitals — a move that they said was an underhanded way of shutting clinics down by making sure they weren’t up to code, according to NPR.
After news of the draft Supreme Court opinion leaked, Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued a statement reaffirming his stance as an anti-abortion governor and his belief that it should be a states’ rights issue. He has not yet laid out any plans to change Virginia’s abortion laws.