Jun 27, 2022 - News

Could D.C. abortion be used as a bargaining chip?

People protest outside the Supreme Court. A crowd of people holding signs is clustered in front of trees. The sign in the middle says: The hardest decision a woman can make isn't yours.
Protesters on Friday outside the Supreme Court building. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

At a Planned Parenthood clinic in NoMa on Friday, D.C. officials reiterated calls for statehood amid D.C.’s hazy abortion future.

Why it matters: The end of Roe v. Wade leaves D.C in an uncertain position. While District officials have reaffirmed abortion rights in the city, a Republican-led Congress could vote to ban abortion in D.C., whether via a standalone bill or as a rider on a funding package.

Of note: It seems likely that President Biden would veto a standalone bill, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said Friday.

  • “The House is likely to fall to Republicans. They may not need a rider if they have the majority who want to make sure that abortion is not available in the District,” Norton said. “Our best hope would be in the Senate because even if Democrats don't control the Senate, I am usually able to stop bills in the Senate.”

Yes, but: A rider, which is a separate and unrelated provision attached to a larger bill, is a different story.

Flashback: In 2011 under President Obama, a still-standing rider was attached to Congress’ funding package, preventing it from using local dollars to pay for abortions for low-income people.

  • That’s on top of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding from going toward abortion.

And as DC Vote executive director Bo Shuff points out, that rider was attached as a bargaining chip for a Democratic White House trying to secure funding from a Republican-led Congress.

  • That leaves Shuff and some other D.C. residents unsure that it wouldn’t happen again.

What they’re saying: Norton rejected outright that D.C. may yet again be used as a bargaining chip during a Democratic presidency, although she acknowledged D.C.'s precarious position without statehood.

Meanwhile, the D.C. Council has bills in the works to strengthen the District’s abortion protections, mainly to aid people coming from different states to seek an abortion.

  • But, if Congress were to ban abortion, those protections would no longer matter, D.C. Council chair Phil Mendelson told Axios on Friday.

Laura Meyers, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, said on Friday that its doors are open and they are looking at ways to open as “further capacity” to provide care for people coming from out of state.

  • The DC Abortion Fund tells Axios that, between the decision dropping Friday morning and 5pm that day, it had raised an additional $65,000 in donations.“We will do what we have always done: help people get the abortions they seek. Today’s decision will not change that,” a spokesperson told Axios in an email.
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