2022 | Government

Montgomery County officials continue to worry about abortion access in other states

Elrich proposes a county ‘advertising campaign’ to lure companies from states restricting abortion

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County Executive Marc Elrich

Screenshot via Zoom

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and others in county government continue to worry about the implications of restricted access to reproductive health services in many states following last week’s reversal of Roe v. Wade.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling overturned a nearly 50-year-old decision, meaning abortion will be prohibited in 13 states with “trigger bans,” The Washington Post reported. There are already eight states that had bans as of Wednesday, and all of the bans will be in place within 30 days of the ruling.

During a briefing with reporters on Wednesday, Elrich said he is particularly concerned about restrictive laws in Texas, Florida and Mississippi that are already in effect or soon will be. Elrich also expressed concern about a 15-week abortion ban proposed by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R). 

Elrich noted that $1 million in funding for providers of abortion and reproductive health services was recently transmitted to the County Council — and said this money will be distributed by the Department of Health and Human Services through a grant process. The funds will also be used to help organizations fighting legal battles on behalf of those seeking access to reproductive services, he noted. The funding is scheduled to be introduced to the council on July 12 and a vote is scheduled for July 26.

When asked if he had a sense of how many people might come to Montgomery County from other states seeking abortions, Elrich said it was too early to tell.

“I don’t think anybody has an estimate, because we’d have to know what the abortion rates are in all the surrounding states. … So we’ll deal with it as it comes,” he said.

Elrich said the county plans to retain a company that will craft an advertising campaign targeting businesses that are currently in states where abortion access is restricted.

“We’ve got to be proactive [and] advertise these areas for them to consider coming to Montgomery County, where women’s health is protected,” he said.

Later in the briefing, Elrich said Austin, Texas, is the type of place where the county might focus its efforts.

“You’re talking about how many people went to Austin because Austin was hip. Austin may be hip, but the women who came to Austin aren’t safe. And they’re gonna be subject to the draconian laws of their governor and that state legislature,” he said.

Elrich said he hopes other jurisdictions follow Montgomery County’s lead, and if they do he thinks it could have a large impact.

Rich Madaleno, the county’s chief administrative officer, said he is particularly concerned about additional restrictions Missouri could place on abortion rights. One proposal would have allowed private citizens to sue anyone who aids a Missouri resident in getting an abortion, however state legislators blocked the measure recently, The Missori Independent reported.

Exceptions to out-of-state travel restrictions

On Friday, Elrich announced that the county would restrict its employees from traveling on official business to states that had rolled back reproductive rights protections, or were likely to do so soon. Elrich wrote in a memo that he had directed department heads to decline travel authorization to 25 states.

Elrich said on Tuesday that the travel restrictions will not impact first responder services, such as mutual aid to other states, search and rescue operations or responses to natural disasters. 

Elrich also said “critical” training for county employees will continue to be permitted in other states.

“We’re not gonna deprive people of things they need to do their job safely,” he said.

Additionally, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard said that law enforcement in Montgomery County will be permitted to travel to other states in the event they must conduct an investigation.

Riemer and Kelly holding town hall on abortion access Thursday

County Council Member Hans Riemer and State Del. Ariana Kelly, a Bethesda Democrat, are holding a virtual town hall meeting on abortion access in Montgomery County from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday. Other council members and a panel of healthcare providers and experts will also be available to answer questions. Participants are asked register first.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com