Reproductive rights activists worry that, should Brett Kavanaugh be confirmed to the Supreme Court, there is a very real possibility that Roe v. Wade may be overturned. Without federal constitutional protection, a person’s ability to obtain an abortion would rest with the states, 19 of which adopted anti-abortion laws in 2017.
While there are no abortion-related initiatives or state constitutional amendments on midterm ballots in the DMV*, Virginia, and Maryland have both placed restrictions on abortion access since 2011 — and you can view a database of the laws, people, organizations, and litigation involved in sexual and reproductive health and justice in the United States here.
In addition to coverage from organizations like the DC Abortion Fund and from news outlets like Rewire.News, websites for local government are getting better at making legislation searchable. Here are the most recent abortion measures considered by the DC, Maryland, and Virginia legislatures:
The Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Act of 2017 is currently under Council Review. It would make it illegal under the D.C. Human Rights Act to fire a healthcare professional for participating in or expressing support for abortion care.
Of six abortion-related measures introduced to the General Assembly this session, only HB 787/SB 629 was successfully enacted. Effective October 1, 2018 this law will mandate medical care for pregnant inmates in Maryland correctional facilities. This will guarantee access to a wide range of provisions, such as counseling, prenatal testing, abortion services, labor and delivery care, and child placement services.
However, Maryland’s budget bill included a provision stating that Medicaid reimbursements for abortions would be limited to cases of “fetal impairment” cases where a pregnant person’s life or health is endangered, or pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch has argued for a state constitutional amendment to protect abortion access, but this wouldn’t appear on the ballot until 2020.
Several bills aimed at increasing abortion access failed to move forward. HB 1231/SB 910 proposed a fundamental right for pregnant people to obtain an abortion and was “passed by indefinitely.” HB 450 called for repeal of the law requiring physicians to perform an ultrasound and obtain informed written consent from a pregnant person before performing an abortion. SB 133 similarly called for an end to the written consent requirement, proposing that a pregnant person may waive in writing this requirement, but was “passed by indefinitely.” SB 292 proposed that the Board of Health fund abortions for survivors of incest or rape who reported their rape or incest to a public health agency and qualified for public assistance, but was also passed by indefinitely.
*DC: No ballot initiatives about abortion. Maryland: No Proposed State Constitutional Amendments about abortion. Virginia: No Proposed State Constitutional Amendments about abortion.
By volunteer Rebecca K.
Generally speaking, abortion laws tend to not be very liberal in the developing world. In contrast, Ethiopia has surprisingly liberal abortion laws that were introduced in the early 2000s that allow for abortion in the cases of rape, incest, risk to the life of the pregnant person, fetal abnormalities, and if the pregnant person is too young to care for a child.
This liberalization was mostly due to high records of unsafe abortion-related deaths; however, Ethiopia does not require proof of any of these considerations, allowing pregnant patients to obtain abortions with relative ease if a clinic is nearby and if doctors agree to perform the procedure. Moreover, the clinics do not impose any mandatory waiting periods, and many doctors recommend getting an abortion within three days of asking and being deemed eligible to receive one.
The government allegedly did this to appease the family planning, women’s rights advocates, and religious groups on either side of the abortion issue. Yet, abortion services are affected when developing countries receive aid from certain countries, notably the U.S.
Turning to the U.S., the Helms Amendment, also known as the Global Gag Rule, was first enacted in 1973, and it prohibited any U.S. aid going to NGOs in foreign countries if abortions were performed or promoted in that country This law was repealed by President Obama, but it still complicated safe abortion efforts in foreign countries as NGOs were confused by the new allowances that took effect during the years the law was revoked. That all changed within a few days that the Trump administration took over in 2017, and reimposed — as well as expanded — the Global Gag Rule to block health assistance to all foreign NGOs that use their own funding to offer abortion-related services.
This funding restriction on abortion conflicts with Ethiopia’s abortion laws and restricts what NGOs can do, effectively discriminating against pregnant people who are seeking an abortion just because they live in a country that receives U.S. foreign aid. It impacts people in developing countries by limiting their access to abortion, even though it is legal where they live. This harmful policy undermines the very goal of U.S. foreign aid organizations, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, by directly and negatively affecting the health of people in poorer countries, while also “violating medical ethics and trampling on democratic values.”
To help people who live overseas receive the access to abortion they legally deserve, we as Americans must continue to advocate for abortion as a right and a medical health issue here in the U.S. — to protect our citizens’ rights and those of global citizens.
By volunteer Sarah T.
Last week was an incredibly tough week for abortion rights advocates. With a devastating 5-4 loss in the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra and swing justice Anthony Kennedy retiring on July 31, the future of abortion access is one big question mark.
For those feeling helpless, I feel you. It’s daunting to think that the progress we’ve made in the 45 years since Roe v. Wade could be rolled back with a majority anti-choice court. Whether that rollback looks like a full reversal of Roe v. Wade or incremental losses like the NIFLA decision, the message is clear: we can’t depend on the Supreme Court to uphold abortion access.
With the courts in jeopardy and an anti-choice Congress, community organizations like the DC Abortion Fund are even more essential. There’s already a multitude of national and local restrictions on abortion care, and it’s not hard to predict that things will most likely get worse. If restrictions continue to increase without check in our judicial system, we must take it upon ourselves to ensure that folks are able to access abortion care, regardless of financial or physical barriers.
Organizations like DCAF will be front and center in providing financial help, especially if resources are stretched even thinner to account for the inevitable influx of pregnant people seeking procedures. If Roe falls and there is no longer a federal right to abortion, it’s likely that even more people will have to travel to places like Maryland—which guarantee a right to abortion under state law—to get the care they need.
If you are financially able, I encourage you to make a recurring or one-time donation to DCAF. Truly, every little bit helps and will go a long way in these uncertain times.
That feeling of helplessness won’t go away completely, but we can do our part in making abortion a little more possible.
By volunteer Caitlin V.
We are disappointed and disgusted to hear multiple, detailed reports of ongoing sexual harassment at the National Abortion Federation and the Hotline Fund (as outlined in Rewire.News).
Everyone deserves to be able to work in a safe environment free of discrimination and harassment. Reproductive rights organizations and progressive spaces must be the leaders in the fight against harassment — and too often they fall short. It’s critical that all organizations ensure that their employees feel safe at work by taking all complaints seriously, creating policies with clear reporting systems, paying workers a living wage, outlining fair hiring and firing practices, and building mechanisms for holding management accountable for addressing discrimination and harassment in all forms.
That is why DCAF also supports the organizing effort of NAF workers to unionize and get a seat at the table in the decision-making process. This is particularly critical for those workers who are in direct contact with clients on the NAF Hotline and reportedly are more likely to be people of color, women, and identify as LGBTQ. Neglecting the needs of case managers comes at a significant cost to the clients who call, the case managers, their colleagues, and the reproductive rights movement as a whole — in the forms of harmed mental and physical health and high turnover and burnout.
We encourage all organizations to take action to prevent and end sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as discrimination and harassment of all kinds.
This past January I became a DC Abortion Fund case manager. I did this because I feel passionately about the right to choose, and being able to exercise this choice in your own community. These values overlap with my day job at Catholics for Choice where we advocate for a person’s moral and legal right to abortion access globally.
On May 25, Ireland took a historic step and overwhelmingly voted to repeal the 8th Amendment, which equated the life of a pregnant person with that of an embryo or fetus and criminalized abortion except if continuing a pregnancy would result in certain death.
While in college, I spent a summer living and working in Dublin, Ireland. From my first weekend in the Longford countryside, I was struck by just how welcoming and kind the Irish people were. Nearly everyone I met was eager to discuss political and justice issues. Given that this was the summer of 2016, there was certainly no shortage of topics.
I met and worked with Irish women who were strong, passionate, and deeply concerned about equality. Some shared my interest in reproductive rights; frequently leading us to discussions on the dark history of the 8th Amendment, and the emotional and financial burdens that traveling abroad for abortion care imposes. Many of these stories — from the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar to the X case — were new, and deeply alarming, to me. The ban on abortion seemed so out of step with the compassionate Ireland I was welcomed into.
Historically, the Catholic hierarchy has exerted a strong hand in Ireland, as demonstrated by their role in the introduction of the 8th Amendment in 1983. Since then, Irish Catholics have questioned both the Catholic hierarchy’s views and its role in a secular state. These Catholics have evolved in their positions on abortion.
On May 25, 66 percent of Irish people voted to repeal the 8th Amendment. Voters overwhelmingly said that they trust women with their lives, their bodies, and their futures. In a predominantly Catholic country, this vote reaffirmed what has always been true — Catholics can be, and are, prochoice.
Together for Yes, and activists across Ireland, ran a campaign built on compassion. They succeeded in lifting the stigma and silence surrounding abortion. Catholics discussed their faith and their values, and ultimately came together to support people seeking an abortion. Both men (65.9 percent) and women (72.1 percent) voted for abortion access at home in Ireland. People of all ages voted yes, with an astounding 87.6 percent of voters aged 18-24 standing up for the right to choose. Even rural constituencies, like Longford, voted for Repeal in impressive margins.
Ahead of the referendum, you could see thousands of Irish citizens traveling to vote Yes on #HometoVote. And while they were coming home, on average nine people a day were leaving Ireland for an abortion in the UK. Thankfully, this will soon be over.
The Irish referendum filled me with hope that this momentous example will inspire further progress in favor of abortion access both at home and abroad. We will certainly continue fighting to make this a reality.
By volunteer Casey B.
We’re going to be real with you.
Despite a very successful Game-a-Thon this year, the truth is that over the past 12 months, we’ve received more calls from patients—and more callers have had larger gaps in funding, or more expensive procedures—than ever before.
By June 30, we have a goal to raise $10,000. This will help to ensure that every caller receives the necessary funding for their abortion.
Can you pitch in $15, $25, $50, or whatever you can afford?
The question of whether or not to get an abortion is a question for only one person: the pregnant person. No one else should get to decide that—not a room full of politicians, not a parent or a partner, not economic circumstances. Help to ensure that every caller gets the abortion care they need!
The DC Abortion Fund’s Board of Directors is proud to endorse Yes on 77, a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers across all eight wards in the District of Columbia. DCAF patients face many barriers when it comes to accessing the care they need. While Initiative 77 will not eliminate all the barriers our patients face, we believe it’s an important step toward achieving true reproductive justice in our nation’s capital.
For workers in D.C., a fair, reliable wage can mean the difference between being able to afford healthcare or going without. Inconsistent or low pay affects many of our patients—particularly women of color and those working in economically underserved parts of the District.
This means they may have to make difficult decisions about their reproductive healthcare needs, such as using birth control inconsistently, or forgoing basic necessities like food, rent, or utilities in order to save up enough funds to afford the abortion and other services they need. Fair, reliable wages will also help workers support the children they already have.
We believe, if enacted, Initiative 77 would help reduce the financial barriers many DCAF patients face, as well as take an important step toward achieving full reproductive justice for people across all eight wards. Reproductive justice will not be achieved until everyone has the resources they need to create and support the families they want.
We recognize that there are strong opinions on both sides of the issue, including within our own organization and within the service industry itself, but the DCAF Board of Directors believes that voting yes will advance reproductive justice.
Editor’s Note: the post below is by Monica Weeks, Campaign Manager for One Fair Wage DC.
On June 19, 2018, all DC voters will have the chance to vote on ballot initiative 77. As President of the DC National Organization for Women and Campaign Manager of the One Fair Wage DC campaign, I am asking you to vote YES on 77 on June 19th.
One Fair Wage DC is a campaign for better wages and better tips. It calls for employers to pay their workers the full minimum wage PLUS TIPS. The campaign is led by women and people of color who live and work in the District of Columbia as tipped professionals in the restaurant industry. Ballot initiative 77 will incrementally increase the tipped minimum wage by $1.50 per year, until it reaches $15 per hour in 2025. Currently, tipped workers in DC make only $3.33 per hour with that amount increasing to only $5 per hour by 2020. We believe restaurant professionals deserve professional wages plus tips.
You might be wondering “what does this ballot initiative have to do with abortions or reproductive justice?” Women tipped workers are twice as likely to live in poverty as men in tipped occupations and they are nearly three times more likely to live in poverty than the overall workforce. Servers and bartenders in DC experience a poverty rate of 19%.
On top of that, the restaurant and hospitality industry is the single-largest source of sexual harassment charges filed by women with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), with a rate twice that of the general workforce. That is because tipped workers have to put up with unwanted and inappropriate behavior from customers in order to make a good tip, because the customer pays their wage, not their employer. And “the customer is always right.” In DC, 92% of restaurant workers in the District report sexually harassing behavior at work.
A fair wage for tipped workers will decrease sexual harassment while also improving access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, which low-income women in DC are forced to pay for out-of-pocket. For women in DC, a fair wage can mean the difference being able to afford health care or going without.
Seven states have already eliminated the subminimum wage for tipped workers. The restaurant industry is strong in those states, demonstrating that it is economically feasible to phase out the tipped minimum wage without harming restaurant jobs or sales. Wages, including tips, are unambiguously higher in these seven states than in the other 43 states. And sexual harassment claims to the EEOC are cut in half.
With One Fair Wage, restaurants do better and workers do better. Seven states have proven that and we are hoping to make DC the first east coast municipality to make One Fair Wage a reality. Vote Yes on 77 on June 19th and stand with tipped workers as we fight for economic, racial, and gender justice.
We know the work we do together to help fund abortions is critical, because everyone deserves access to abortion care. But when we receive notes like this, it truly drives the point home:
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you for guiding us through this and advocating for my daughter and our family. I am overcome with the outpouring of support and want you to know how appreciative we are…she will go on and be a fierce, independent college student in the fall. I am so grateful. Please pass along our gratitude, words just don’t seem to be enough.” – Maria*, mother of DCAF grant recipient
Every person who calls our helpline is different and has their own unique story. But one thing remains the same: they all deserve the right to access the healthcare they need, regardless of what’s in their wallets or where they live.
DCAF’s work truly takes a village, and we appreciate all that you do to make sure our callers receive the care they deserve! We’re so proud of our work together during the Game-a-Thon fundraiser to raise over $115K — and your work throughout the year to speak with our helpline callers, host events, stuff envelopes, and so much more.
This movement needs all of us to keep showing up, day after day, to make sure callers like Maria and her daughter can access abortion. Numerous obstacles and policies are set up to restrict access to care, but together we can work to break down those barriers.
You can continue to help us fund callers like Maria and her daughter by making a one-time or monthly gift.
*Name changed for privacy.