Va. Gov. Youngkin seeks 15-week abortion ban as DC-area leaders react to Supreme Court abortion ruling

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has given his support for a 15-week abortion ban as other leaders in D.C., Maryland and Virginia reacted Friday to the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey — two major court cases upholding the nationwide right to an abortion.



Local Executives

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said that the Supreme Court ruling was the correct decision and “rightfully returned power” to elected officials. He said that bipartisan consensus can be built “on protecting the life of unborn children, especially when they begin to feel pain in the womb.”

“I’m proud to be a pro-life Governor and plan to take every action I can to protect life,” Youngkin said in a statement. “The truth is, Virginians want fewer abortions, not more abortions.”

Since the decision was released, Youngkin has shared support for a 15-week ban on abortion in the state.

The state legislature previously killed a 20-week abortion ban from the GOP-held House in a state Senate committee led by Democrats.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan shared a statement on the ruling Friday afternoon.

“In 1992, Maryland voters approved a constitutional referendum legalizing and protecting access to abortion as a matter of state law—that measure remains in effect today following the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson,” Hogan said. “I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of Maryland, and that is what I have always done and will continue to do as governor.”

Mayor Muriel Bowser said that, despite the ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the District remains “proudly pro-choice.”

Bowser added that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn two major abortion rulings — Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey — was a fight “for our very democracy” during a Friday news conference.

“We know that we are fighting, not just for the rights of women and girls, but we’re fighting for our very democracy,” Bowser said. “The fight is urgent.”

Bowser was joined by D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, several council members and representatives for Planned Parenthood in D.C. All expressed outrage at the high court’s decision.

“We already live with the indignity of a congressional rider that says how we use our own local dollars to support women on Medicaid in the District,” she said. “And they are restricted from getting abortion care because of that rider.”

She added that a majority of Americans agree that abortion has broad support and said that she will ensure care is available in the District.

“We will do everything in our power to make sure that our city remains a safe city for abortion care and a legal city for abortion care,” Bowser said.


Virginia

Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears said that she supports Youngkin’s actions to ensure that Supreme Court justices are safe and the decision reverses a decision she calls “an example of judicial and federal overreach.”

“The important question of abortion has now been returned to state houses across the country, in order for them to make their own policy decisions — which is exactly what the Founding Fathers envision when they wrote the 10th amendment to the Constitution,” Sears said. “I applaud the Court for recognizing this wrong and having the courage to correct it.”

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, on the other hand, shared concern over the move.

Democratic U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner have shared opposition to the move to remove decades of abortion rights protection for women.

Warner said that the decision to eliminate the federal constitutional right to abortion “jeopardizes the health and autonomy of millions of American women.” Additionally, he said that it could create “life-threatening or prohibitively expensive circumstances” for those seeking abortions from states with bans.

“This decision will take control over personal health care decisions away from individuals and give it to politicians in state legislatures across the country,” Warner said. “I am heartbroken for the generations of women who now have fewer rights than when they were born, many of whom will be forced into life-threatening or prohibitively expensive circumstances to access health care as a result of this radical decision.”

Some of those challenges could be felt in nearby Kentucky, as Axios previously reported, since a statewide ban could increase abortion travel to Virginia. Virginia abortion providers, according to the report, are already at capacity.

Attorney General Jason Miyares said that the Supreme Court decision took the issue of abortion out of the hands of unelected federal judges and into the population of individual states.

“Good and reasonable people can disagree on this issue but now Virginians, not federal judges, can decide its future,” he said. “The Attorney General will continue to uphold and enforce both the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Virginia.”

He also pledged to continue upholding the constitutions of the commonwealth and the United States.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger said the Supreme Court ruling is one she strongly disagrees with, committing to enshrine abortion access into federal law.

“In response to this decision, there will be a renewed push among anti-abortion politicians to strip away fundamental liberties from the people they were elected to serve,” the representative said. “As a federal lawmaker, I will work to restore a woman’s right to choose and protect our rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.”

Rep. Jennifer Wexton shared disappointment on what she said was “our worst fears, realized.”

“Criminalizing abortion, as this decision allow for, will be disastrous for women’s health,” she said.

Rep. Gerry Connolly called the decision “yet another stain on the court” and “a dark moment for American women. Rep. Don Beyer agreed with the sentiment.

Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti has made it clear that the office has no plans to prosecute women in order to force them to give birth.

“Currently, there’s no law in Virginia that criminalizes women who seek care and their doctors who provide them and I strongly urge the General Assembly not to go down the disastrous path of introducing the criminal legal system into such deeply personal medical decisions,” said Dehghani-Tafti.

Additionally, Dehghani-Tafti said that the position she shared when seeking office in 2019 was that it “would be wrong for us to prosecute women in Arlington and the City of Falls Church.”

“My position has not changed,” she said.

Neither has the position of Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, who reiterated his previous stance: “The news out of the Supreme Court today is saddening but hardly surprising,” he said via Twitter. “No matter what the law in Virginia says, I will not prosecute a woman for having an abortion, or for being suspected of inducing one.”

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said the city will have more to say in the coming days.

Falls Church Council member Dave Snyder decried the court’s ruling as well.

“So, according to this Supreme Court whose majority is only in place as a result of rank political manipulation, the Constitution dictates that state governments can tell a woman what she can do with her own body but state and local governments can’t protect their citizens against armed mayhem,” Snyder said. “If this is not savaging the Constitution and the intent of the founders, I do not know what is.”


DC

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton argued that the constitutional right to abortion was revoked and called into question “whether the Supreme Court will overturn other long-standing rights and recent precedents” in the country.

During a Friday news conference, she called for her colleagues in Congress to codify their push for federal law and pushed for statehood, adding that she is “ready for that fight.”

“We are not one of the half of the country that may be able to continue with abortion services,” Norton said. “Because we do not have statehood, we are subservient to the House and Senate”

In a statement, Norton added that previous majority Republican congresses have used D.C. to “impose policies they cannot or do not have the support to impose nationally.” She says that will not happen to abortion in D.C.

“Congress must immediately codify the right to abortion in federal law. The decision is also a reminder to the country that D.C.’s lack of statehood means D.C. is subject to the whims of Congress,” Norton said.

She said that the best bet for the District if federal actors choose to implement abortion bans in the District, is in the U.S. Senate.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine pledged to “defend and strengthen” abortion rights in D.C., saying the decision leaves millions without access to critical health care with “substantial impacts on their lives.”

“We already know that low-income patients, especially Black and brown women and those in rural areas, already face barriers to reproductive care,” he said. “They will further bear the brunt of the lack of access to abortion. It’s another dark chapter in a centuries-long effort to control women’s bodies and lives, particularly those in our most marginalized communities.”

He said his office will continue to enforce the Human Rights Act and the Bias-Related Crimes Act, providing protection for those providing or seeking abortion care.

Additionally, he shared information on what abortion care will look like in the District following this ruling. In summary:

  • The Supreme Court decision has not invalidated any D.C. abortion law.
  • Anyone, including visitors to the District, can access abortion care in D.C. with no mandatory waiting period.
  • Those seeking abortion care in the city can contact their health care provider, the DC Abortion Fund, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC and abortion clinics.
  • Medication abortions remain available for pregnant patients until up to 10 weeks
  • There is no time limit for accessing abortion in D.C. — it is legal at all stages of pregnancy.
  • Those under 18 do not need parental permission.

Racine also warned against attempting to access abortions at crisis pregnancy centers — they do not provide abortions and “often are focused on preventing abortions.” Those seeking abortions, he says, should also be aware of misleading online abortion searches.

“Be careful of internet searches for abortion that may yield results for fake clinics or pregnancy help centers that do not provide reproductive health care, but rather, exist instead to mislead or deter people from getting abortions.”

At-Large Council member Christina Henderson said Friday morning that the laws surrounding abortion in D.C. remain in tact.

During a Friday news conference, Henderson said she hopes the council will pass a bill helping residents access abortion care in the District in the near future.

“We have work to do before the end of this council period,” Henderson said, asking people to “check on your strong friends today.”

One of the bills introduced hopes to ensure that insurance laws are required to cover abortion care and similar items in the city. That bill, Henderson says, has not seen a committee hearing.

By that afternoon, Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh joined Henderson and several other council members at a press conference. She said she was concerned, as a former constitutional law teacher, that the court revoked a right at all.

“These are Taliban judges,” Cheh said, “in terms of how they treat women and women’s bodies.”

She also said that “the very reasoning of the case” puts “other liberties in jeopardy.”

“What are we going to do to try to protect ourselves to the extent that we can,” she asked, saying that the District needs to unify with like-minded jurisdictions to “figure out all of the best strategies that we can use collectively.”

DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson agreed, saying the implications of the ruling by “activist judges” may lead to “others of our rights being eroded over the decades.”

“What is the court today? Let’s call them what they are — they’re hypocrites,” Mendelson said of the justices.

Council member Brooke Pinto said that she was, like many across the country, “mad and angry.”

“The entire council stands together on this, and with Congresswoman Norton, to make sure that it is very clear what the District’s priorities are and what we can and cannot accept for our residents,” she said.

Pinto called for people to vote for candidates who are “not going to allow this abuse of our dignity and human rights to continue.

Council member Elissa Silverman said she wanted to stand with the District against what she called a “cruel” ruling.

“We need to work together because certainly, this ruling is a threat, I think, to women and men and families across the country,” Silverman said, “but I think it shows a particular threat to our city.”

Silverman called for a strengthening of home rule and preservation of the rights of District residents.


Maryland

Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen called the ruling a “results-driven ruling, not a rule-of-law decision,” adding that this decision will undermine the legitimacy of the court.

Likewise, Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin calls the right to abortion a fundamental decision made by women “in consultation with their doctor,” opposing “political interference from federal, state, or local government.”

Rep. John Sarbanes said that the decision “overrules the voices of a broad majority” of abortion supporters, adding that the decision “only deepens the crisis of legitimacy” surrounding the Supreme Court.

Attorney General Brian Frosh called the Dobbs decision one that “strips away the fundamental rights of women,” including victims of rape, incest and abuse, “to control their own bodies.”

“I am proud of my vote over 30 years ago to codify Roe v. Wade in state law, and I am proud of the work that our office has done since to protect and expand access to reproductive health care services across Maryland,” Frosh said. “We will continue to champion the rights of women to make their own health care decisions and to safeguard the right to privacy for all Marylanders.”

House Majority Leader and Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer said that the decision to overturn Roe and Casey ignores “nearly five decades of precedent and clear Constitutional principles.

“This decision also opens a door to overturning established precedent on many other important rights and freedoms enjoyed by Americans, including contraception access and the right of LGBTQ Americans to marry those they love,” Hoyer said. “No right is safe from this activist group of Republican-appointed justices who see themselves as legislators.

Rep. Jamie Raskin said the legitimacy of the court “is gone.”

Rep. Anthony Brown said that the 6-3 court decision overturned “essential protections for reproductive health care” by stripping away “a long-established constitutional right and Americans’ ability to make their own health care decisions.

Brown also said that the decision could have an impact on other communities while lambasting Supreme Court justices.

“Make no mistake, while today, radical justices are rolling back abortion rights, they won’t stop there,” he said. “This decision makes clear that every right and step forward for progress in our country’s history is in jeopardy – rights to contraceptives, LGBTQ+ rights, and hard fought civil rights that generations of activists and lawmakers have pushed for and defended.

Rep. David Trone, a Democrat representing the 6th District, said the ruling was “deeply disappointing,” and effectively sent “the wrong message to Americans about how we value women and their futures.”

“History shows that limiting abortion access often forces women to resort to unsafe means to end unwanted pregnancies — including self-inflicted bodily harm and ingestion of dangerous chemicals — resulting in permanent injury or death,” Trone said.

He added that this “beyond the pale” decision increases the need to “enshrine abortion services into law.”

Del. Ariana Kelly, author of the state’s Abortion Care Access Act and former Pro-Choice Maryland NARAL executive director, said that the decision was “devastating” but not unexpected.

“We were hoping for some type of moderation once the draft was released, but we did not get any,” Kelly said.

Since codifying the protections in the 1990s and the strengthening of those protections through the Abortion Care Access Act, she says the pressure on the state will increase.

“We are the southernmost safe, pro-choice state,” she said, “which means we’re going to see a huge influx of patients from both the South and the Midwest. We’re expecting about 26% of clinics to close across the country as a result of this decision. And somebody needs to take those patients because the number of unintended pregnancies is not going to be decreased.”

She added that she considered the ruling not an rollback to a time before Roe v. Wade, but to “worse laws” than before Roe.

“People say we’re going back to where we were 50 years ago. We’re going to a worse place — a place we’ve never been,” she said.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks was stunned after the ruling on gun rights just a day prior.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said that the ruling “jeopardizes women, rolls back fundamental rights and, ultimately, will significantly impact the health and life of many women in our country.” He said the ruling isn’t about law, but a “twisted ideology.”

“The irony is that this decision comes one day after we celebrated Title IX and its impact on the progress of women,” Elrich said.

He added that the county added $1 million to help women’s services in the area in anticipation of this ruling.

“While we cannot directly affect other states’ actions, we can make certain Montgomery County does not provide additional revenue to states that are unwelcome to women’s freedom,” he said.

Elrich also said that he is having Chief Administrative Officer Richard S. Madaleno write a policy for county employees, with exceptions, that “bars County payment for travel to states with policies that roll back a woman’s right to choose.”

The executive called for other jurisdictions to follow in Montgomery County’s footsteps.

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman called for residents to vote in the upcoming election.

Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, Jr was among many calling for federal codification of abortion rights.

 


Local organizations

The leaders of Virginia’s Planned Parenthood quickly pointed out that abortion remains legal in the state, despite this ruling.

“This is a devastating decision that will impact millions of people across the country,” said Jamie Lockhart, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. “PPAV’s mission has always been to protect abortion access for those who need care in Virginia and beyond, and this decision does not change that.”

Maryland Planned Parenthood called the ruling a “devastating decision,” noting that “more than half the states across the country are expected to quickly move to ban abortion.”

“This will have devastating consequences for patients throughout the country with 26 states likely to ban or restrict abortion following today’s decision,” the organization said. “DESPITE THIS, PPM will continue to provide abortion care in all of our health centers.”

Laura Meyers, president of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. (PPMW), joined organization CEO Takina Wilson in voicing outrage at the decision.

“How dare they say that me, our daughters, our granddaughters are not full citizens,” Meyers asked.

Wilson said the organization will ensure that “every person, regardless of race, income level or where they live” can make decisions about their bodies and where they live.

However, Wilson and Meyers highlighted that PPMW is also preparing for a potential increase in those seeking abortions from “outside of the DMV.” Even so, Meyers said, nothing would stop Planned Parenthood from providing health care services to the community.

“We are not going back and we are not backing down,” Meyers said.

Board Chair of PPMW Dana Thomas simply said, “I want to amplify what Laura said. Our doors are open and will remain open. And we will never back down.”

The ACLU of Virginia joined Capitol protestors to “speak out against the Supreme Court’s decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called this moment “a historic day in the life of our country,” after nearly five decades of abortion access.

“America was founded on the truth that all men and women are created equal, with God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the conference shared This truth was grievously denied by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized and normalized the taking of innocent human life.”

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop for the Archdiocese of Washington said that he “rejoiced” when the decision was made, but said that “the work is not done.”

“Locally and nationally, we still have more to do to advance the dignity of human life and to make sure that the full range of life issues are adequately addressed,” Gregory said.

He called for “supporting pregnant women in making life-affirming choices,” providing prenatal and postnatal care, affordable childcare, safe schools and advancing policies that support mothers in school and in the workforce.”

Other religious organizations, such as the Jewish Community Relations Council, were disappointed over the high court’s ruling.

JCRC said in a statement that it will “forcefully oppose efforts to limit abortion access in the DMV.

Stephanie Vader is a minister with the Capitol Hill United Methodist Church and said she supports a woman’s right to abortion. She said she was upset by the decision. “I’m really pissed. I’m very sad.”

Dumbarton United Methodist Pastor Rachel Cornwell said Friday that she was outside the Supreme Court  “to show that there are Christians who stand for reproductive rights and we will continue to stand with all people.” She too said that she was deeply sad and afraid over the Supreme Court’s decision.

Fairfax County Democrats blamed “the extremist Republican party,” saying that the court hasn’t ended abortion, only amplified inequality.

“Republicans profess to be the party of individual liberty, but they continually attack women’s freedoms and rights,” the organization wrote.

The Fairfax County Republican Committee has not released a statement, only sharing Virginia Youngkin’s announcement that he would push state legislators to draft a 15-week abortion bill.

Ivy Lyons

Ivy Lyons is a digital journalist for WTOP.com. Since 2018, they have worked on Capitol Hill, at NBC News in Washington, and with WJLA in Washington.

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