May 4, 2022 - News

D.C. without Roe v. Wade

Protesters outside the Supreme Court.
Photo: Paige Hopkins/Axios

The potential overturn of Roe v. Wade has Democratic leaders around the region fearful about Republicans intervening in the District and the possibility of Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin pushing to restrict abortion access.

Why it matters: Despite being solidly blue, the region is uniquely susceptible to a rollback in abortion access. Congress has the final say over the District’s laws and already bans the city from spending local dollars on abortions for the poor.

  • And Youngkin yesterday again declared himself staunchly “pro-life” and said states should decide on abortion.

What they’re saying: “A Republican Congress is likely to use this decision to try and ban abortion in D.C. in particular,” said D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, surrounded by Mayor Bowser and a majority of the D.C. Council Tuesday afternoon at Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Northeast.

Yes, but: Saving abortion rights could galvanize Democrats to turn out in Virginia races and nationally in congressional elections this November, forestalling Republican attempts to restrict access in D.C.

  • And if Republicans did take Congress, President Biden would likely veto any restrictions to the city’s abortion rights.
  • In Maryland, where the right to abortion is already protected, Democratic lawmakers went further last month to expand access, over the veto of Governor Larry Hogan.

Still, local officials note that the District has been used as a bargaining chip before.

  • A provision could be slipped into a federal budget bill, the way President Barack Obama in 2011 reportedly told then-House Speaker Republican John Boehner, “I’ll give you D.C. abortion” as a compromise, thereby giving up the city’s right to fund abortions for low-income women.

In Virginia, Youngkin declined to tell reporters whether he would seek legislation to ban abortions after 15 or 20 weeks. But with a Republican majority in the House of Delegates and a slim Democratic hold in the Senate, any battle over abortion right now would be hard-fought.

“When Glenn Youngkin comes to take away our abortion rights- he is going to run into a BRICK WALL,” tweeted Democratic state Sen. L. Louise Lucas.

Go deeper: Check out Axios’ dashboard for ongoing coverage of this issue.

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