Although Maryland law protects access to abortion, some Montgomery County leaders on Tuesday said they fear a possible Supreme Court decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized the procedure nationwide could start a “slippery slope” of reversing other rights.
And two County Council members suggested that abortion providers in the state could become the option for women who can’t get abortions legally in the states where they live.
Local leaders were reacting to the news of a leaked draft opinion proposing to overturn Roe v. Wade, saying such a decision would create a “psychological threat” to Marylanders’ “sense of security in their rights.”
Politico reported Monday night on the leaked draft opinion in a case challenging Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks. The draft opinion — which could change before the court’s final ruling is issued — says there is no constitutional right to abortion services; the ruling would give states more authority to regulate or ban abortions. The court is expected to issue a ruling in the case by July.
The leaked draft sparked reaction nationwide, including from Montgomery County and Maryland leaders, who largely rebuked the court’s draft opinion Tuesday. Meanwhile, some county residents joined others who gathered at the Supreme Court to protest.
State Del. David Moon, a Democrat from Takoma Park, posted photos of himself at the Supreme Court Tuesday evening, writing “the good news is we’re not going down without a fight. A crowd is already building at the Supreme Court tonight. Lets go.”
The good news is we’re not going down without a fight. A crowd is already building at the Supreme Court tonight. Lets go 💪 pic.twitter.com/u3IwHunVu2
— David Moon (@DavidMoon2014) May 3, 2022
Resistance building at the Supreme Court tonight pic.twitter.com/is5RVtw57l
— David Moon (@DavidMoon2014) May 3, 2022
“Proud to stand in solidarity with thousands at the Supreme Court, and tens of thousands across the country! We WILL support abortion funds & mutual aid, fight for #RoeVsWade and Supreme Court expansion, and engage in local, state and *primary* races! Rage is fuel!,” Kristin Mink, a candidate for the District 5 County Council seat, tweeted from the front of the Supreme Court.
Proud to stand in solidarity with thousands at the Supreme Court, and tens of thousands across the country!
We WILL support abortion funds & mutual aid, fight for #RoeVsWade and Supreme Court expansion, and engage in local, state and *primary* races!
— Kristin Mink for Montgomery County Council (MD) (@KristinMink_) May 4, 2022
Montgomery County Council member Nancy Navarro — the only woman on the council and the mother of two daughters — called the potential ruling “an extremely difficult and outrageous moment for women.”
County Council member Will Jawando, an attorney, said he’s thankful to live in Maryland where “we will not only have access for Marylanders, but we’re going to become an important part of the nationwide care collection, if this goes the way that we suspect.” Navarro added that the county needs to prepare for the potential ripple effects if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
“Because people are going to have to travel, if they can,” Jawando said. “… I think it just shows the politicization of the Supreme Court and a disregard for picking and choosing certain precedents. It is devastating for women, particularly in different states that have governors and legislatures that aren’t going to protect those rights.”
In an interview Tuesday, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said he stands firmly in support of local residents’ right to seek an abortion. But he said he fears that if the court overturns Roe v. Wade, Republican lawmakers at all levels will be emboldened to target other laws, like those that allow same sex marriages or integration.
“It’s not like this is going to make them happy and they’ll go away,” Elrich said of Republican lawmakers. “Now that they’ve done this, the next step is to take the federal government out of providing any assistance” for providing abortions and other public health services.
Navarro shared Elrich’s fear that the consequences of the possible abortion ruling could lead to more changes.
“We didn’t get here overnight, obviously this has been a relentless effort to turn back the clock on women’s rights … I would not think for a minute that this would stop here,” Navarro said. “… It’s crazy to believe that I was born at a time when Roe v. Wade had already passed, that so many victories had occurred. I think this is definitely an affront that is not going to stop here.”
Elrich said he would “expect” the county government to intervene and offset any such revocations of federal funding if they occurred. Otherwise, he said, people would be driven to “do things that are dangerous or unhealthy.”
“That would be the result, and we have an obligation to not let that happen and endanger women’s health,” he said. “We can’t just stand by.”
Maryland lawmakers voted this spring to expand access to abortion in the state and then voted in April to overturn Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of the legislation.
The new law allows nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurse midwives to provide abortions, ending a restriction that only physicians can perform the procedure. It also requires most insurance plans to cover abortions without cost to the patient. The new law goes into effect July 1.
Hogan wrote in a letter explaining his veto at the time that the legislation “endangers the health and lives of women by allowing non-physicians to perform abortions.”
On Tuesday, Elrich said that overturning federal abortion protections could create a sense of insecurity for people across the country, even in more liberal places like Maryland.
“Psychologically, it’s the threat to people’s sense of security in their rights that is concerning, too,” he said.
Representatives of the local Planned Parenthood chapter were not immediately available for comment Tuesday. The organization operates a health center in Gaithersburg that provides a variety of health care services, including abortion. The national organization said in a statement Monday night that the draft ruling is “horrifying and unprecedented” and that the organization will “fight like hell to protect the right to access safe, legal abortion.”
On Tuesday, the Maryland Democratic Party joined more than 50 other Democratic parties from across the country in denouncing the court’s draft ruling.
Neither the Montgomery County nor the Maryland Republican parties had commented as of Tuesday afternoon.
Bethesda Beat Reporter Steve Bohnel contributed to this story.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at email@example.com