Roe Reality Check: Our Jurisdiction After Roe
By Kory Stuer - Planned Parenthood Advocates for DC, Maryland & NoVa | Sept. 18, 2018, 4:31 p.m.
Last week, the Senate questioned Brett Kavanaugh to determine if he was fit to sit on the Supreme Court. If confirmed, Kavanaugh would pose extreme threats to a wide variety of rights, including the abortion rights enshrined in the landmark 1973 case Roe v. Wade.
The addition of extreme conservative Kavanaugh would create a reliable majority of anti-choice votes on the Supreme Court. Anti-choice organizations have praised and celebrated Kavanaugh as exactly the kind of nominee they want and see his appointment as a turning point in their decades-long fight to overturn Roe and criminalize abortion.
Kavanaugh’s actions during the confirmation hearings, including his refusal to answer specific questions on Roe, description of birth control as “abortion-inducing,” and defense of denying abortion access to an undocumented teenager, made even clearer his already clear anti-choice stance. And that’s to say nothing of the released emails which show he has questioned privately what he has repeated publicly: That Roe is settled law.
Most of the politicians considering Kavanaugh are focused on how their vote will impact their next election in their home state, but how would losing Roe impact us right here in the DMV? If Roe were overturned, the legality of abortion would be left up to each individual state.
Here’s where we can breathe a (small) sigh of relief: Maryland has a number of pro-choice laws already on the books, with statutory protection of abortion rights and insurance coverage for contraception.
Because of these laws, we can confidently assert that the right to access abortion in Maryland would be safe, should Roe be gutted by this administration. However, that doesn’t mean our providers would be able to accommodate the potential massive influx of people traveling from out-of-state to access abortion here in Maryland. If abortion were criminalized in surrounding states, we can expect people seeking abortion care to travel to Maryland, and this could require huge amounts of additional resources to avoid significant delays in care, increased waiting times, and other barriers to abortion care in this state.
For these reasons, it is imperative we fight hard to ensure that every woman has access to safe, legal abortion, regardless of what state she lives in.
Here’s where things get tricky: The situation is much murkier in Virginia than Maryland. Whereas Maryland already has statutory protection of abortion rights that would come into effect if Roe were overturned, Virginia does not. For years, opponents of abortion rights have worked to pass harsh restrictions in the state, which advocates have been working diligently to overturn. With a less pro-choice state House and Senate, Virginia has the potential to become a battleground for abortion rights should Roe be overturned.
The good news is that Ralph Northam resides in the Governor’s mansion. Ralph Northam has proven himself time and time again to be a staunch defender of reproductive rights, and we are confident in his commitment to protecting access to abortion in Virginia.
Although DC is one of the most pro-choice localities in the country, our lack of home rule puts abortion access in the District in peril should Roe be overturned. Despite a staunchly pro-choice mayor (shout out to Mayor Bowser!) and DC City Council, the District is vulnerable to meddling from anti-choice politicians in Congress. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, anti-choice federal legislators have made it clear that they would enjoy few things more than attacking abortion rights in DC. In 1980, Congressional Republicans first put in place a ban on DC’s public funding of abortion, which has gone back and forth multiple times but remains in place. In 2012, Republicans tried to implement a 20-week ban in DC against the will of DC-voters.
At the end of the day, we as local residents should be doing everything we can to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation and protect the right to access safe, legal abortion. His record, his answers during his confirmation hearings, and everything Trump and his other supporters have said make clear that overturning Roe would be a top priority for Kavanaugh. In the DMV and across the country, we know that our right to safe, legal abortion and a whole host of other rights is at stake.
But we won’t stop fighting, and we won’t go back.