Photo courtesy of Mark Mahoney
Photo courtesy of Mark Mahoney

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A growing number of District leaders have made it clear that women in D.C. will be able to get an abortion without the fear of any governmental interference. They also remain open to the District becoming a sanctuary city for nonresidents who wish to undergo the procedure.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton expressed outrage that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24. The court’s ruling that a woman does not have a constitutional right to abortion concerns her. But she said she’s even more concerned that states now have the authority to determine the legality of the procedure within their borders. And because the District lacks state status, the U.S. Congress has the authority as the ultimate determinant of a woman’s right to an abortion in D.C.

“Congress must immediately codify the right to abortion in federal law,” she said. “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. Republicans have repeatedly used D.C. to try to impose policies they cannot or do not have the support to impose nationally. A future Republican Congress may try to ban abortion in D.C., thinking they can get away with it because it would apply to D.C. residents. They are wrong. We will never allow that to happen.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has repeated said the District will remain a pro-choice jurisdiction in which a woman can choose to have an abortion without criminal penalty. However, she echoed Norton’s concerns that congressional interference could occur because of the city’s lack of statehood. 

Nevertheless, she said District leaders and residents will continue to fight “to make sure we remain a safe city for abortion care and a legal city for abortion care,” according to The Associated Press.

Laura Meyers, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington in Northeast, said abortion will remain legal in the District, Maryland and Virginia but the negative impact of the court’s decision will disproportionately impact women of color. 

“The ruling will most impact Black and brown women, trans and nonbinary folks, people earning low incomes and people who live in rural communities where health care can be extremely hard to access,” Meyers said.

Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convenor of the Black Women’s Roundtable, said the court’s overturning of Roe amounts to classism, racism and sexism at work.

“Who pays the price when abortions are outlawed? she asked rhetorically. “Poor women of color, women and girls who have been raped or molested and the millions of women who already have limited access to high quality health care.”

Campbell said Black women account for almost 40% of all abortions in America since Roe v. Wade. 

“This country has declared war on Black women and it’s time that we fight back,” she said. “We are demanding once again, that the Senate abolish the filibuster and Congress immediately codify access to abortion. The 2022 midterm election cycle is here and women will not forget who stood up to support women having control of their own bodies.”

Meyers said her organization has received calls from women as far away as Texas and said, “it will welcome patients with open arms and will continue to provide care – no matter what.”

Marcela Howell, president and CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda,favors sanctuary cities.

“We support and encourage cities and states that are working to ensure that women and birthing people can get the abortion care they need,” Howell said. “As Black women, our fight has always been, and continues to be, about the human right to control our body, our work and our community. This bad decision by the court will not change that. We will not stop until reproductive justice is the law of the land.”

John Falcicchio, an aide to Bowser, said the District will act as a sanctuary city for nonresidents and only congressional action will prevent them from doing so. 

D.C. Council member Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1) introduced a bill last month declaring the District a sanctuary city by updating the Human Rights Act of 1977 to that effect. Eight of her colleagues, including Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D) support her bill – enough in support for the bill to pass.

James Wright photo

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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