This story was updated at 2:35 p.m. and 11:45 a.m. June 24, 2022, to include more information.
Maryland and Montgomery County leaders on Friday reaffirmed their commitment to abortion access following the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade.
Friday’s 6-3 ruling centered on the case of Mississippi’s abortion ban, which generally bans the procedure after 15 weeks.
Writing for the court majority, Justice Samuel Alito said the 1973 Roe ruling “must be overruled” because it was “egregiously wrong” and so “damaging” that it is an “abuse of judicial authority.”
The ruling means abortion rights will be rolled back immediately in nearly half of the states.
Maryland’s state constitution protects citizens’ access to legal abortion.
In an interview on Friday morning, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said the county will not pay to send employees to events and conferences in areas that ban abortions. He hopes that other similar-minded states follow suit in order to cause a negative economic impact on those states that roll back rights and protections.
He added that county officials would not provide information about people who come to Montgomery County for abortions from states that ban them.
“Basically, the Supreme Court has figured out how to use a time machine to go back to the 18th century,” Elrich said.
Elrich said the county also would “start an advertising campaign in places where people are going to lose their rights … because I have a feeling that a lot of people are going to be very unhappy about living in a state, where if your friend drives you to the airport, so both of you can go to [get] an abortion, both of you can get arrested.”
Joining the Alito opinion were Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Kavanaugh lives in Chevy Chase, and his home had become the epicenter of protests following the leak of a draft opinion in May that said there was no constitutional right to abortion services.
This month, a 35-year-old California man was indicted on an attempted murder charge after authorities say he went to Kavanaugh’s neighborhood, intending to kill the justice. In response to threats against Kavanaugh and other justices, Congress approved additional security protections for the justices and their families.
Shiera Goff, a Montgomery County police spokeswoman, said Friday in response to questions about increasing patrols in front of Supreme Court justices homes that U.S. marshals and the court’s security force are responsible for monitoring the justices’ homes.
Goff said county police are responsible for monitoring the neighborhoods near the justices’ homes. She declined to discuss specific tactics.
As of 11:45 a.m. Friday, no one was protesting at or near Kavanaugh’s home. A county police car was stationed nearby.
Within minutes of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday, local leaders began releasing statements reaffirming their commitment to ensuring residents have access to legal abortions.
In a statement, Montgomery County Council members said that they “stand in strong support of Roe v. Wade and are prepared to elevate the fight to reinstate one of the most significant health care laws in American history.”
The council approved a resolution last month expressing its support for reproductive and abortion services in response to the leaked draft opinion, and Elrich announced that the county would be allocating $1 million to help nonprofits and other organizations provide those services.
Council member Nancy Navarro, the only female member, told Bethesda Beat on Friday following the court’s ruling that she knew the rollback of abortion rights in the country was inevitable.
“It is devastating for women. It is truly shocking to think that in my lifetime, we would see something like this occur, just turning back the clock in so many ways,” she said. “For states like Maryland, we’re gonna have to be very vigilant and we’re gonna have to strengthen those organizations and those health care facilities that provide reproductive health care.”
Navarro said she is proud that the county has approved the funding for more abortion and reproductive health services because organizations need to have the capacity for more patients due to a projected increase in demand.
When asked about Elrich’s proposal to have the county not pay for sending employees to events in places that ban abortion, Navarro said it was the first she had heard of the idea.
“We haven’t had that conversation, so this is the first that I’m hearing this,” she said. “But I think that there are definitely many ways in which we’re gonna have to express our opposition to those states that continue to turn the clock back. But I haven’t had an opportunity to speak to the executive about what measures he will be considering.”
Navarro said people need to realize how difficult a decision getting an abortion is for women.
“On a personal level, I have never met anyone who has been happy or excited about having to make such a decision,” she said. “For me, motherhood is one of my most extraordinary honors. I have two daughters and it is such an honor to be a mother. At the same time, I also understand the importance of a woman’s right to choose. And that is a decision [for] the woman and her ability to discern what is in her best interest. Sometimes there are health implications that come into play, so this is a very personal decision that should not be dictated by the government.”
County executive candidate and County Council Member Hans Riemer also pledged his support for abortion access, saying “I will do everything in my power to push back against these extreme right-wing dystopian policies.”
Potomac businessman David Blair, a candidate for Montgomery County executive, said: “We will always protect and expand this basic right in Montgomery County – whatever it takes.”
In a statement, the ACLU of Maryland said it will “continue to work with our communities & local partners to defend abortion rights and access to abortion for any and all who can get pregnant.”
In an interview in May and again on Friday, Elrich said he stands firmly in support of local residents’ right to seek an abortion. But he said he fears that with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Republican lawmakers at all levels will be emboldened to target other laws, like those that allow same sex marriages or integration.
Friday’s Supreme Court ruling said that “in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including” in landmark cases guaranteeing people’s rights to contraception and same-sex marriages.
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.
State Del. Ariana Kelly of Bethesda, who sponsored the legislation, said that as a result of the new law, Maryland is the only safe state for abortion access in the southeastern United States.
“We’re expecting 26% of abortion clinics to be closed as a result of this decision,” said Kelly, who represents District 16 and is vice chair of the General Assembly’s Health and Government Operations Committee. “Those patients are going to need somewhere to go so Maryland is expecting a huge influx in patients that need care.”
Patients are already coming from Texas, Kelly said, and she expects to see more from all over the South and Midwest.
In a letter explaining his veto, Hogan wrote that the legislation “endangers the health and lives of women by allowing non-physicians to perform abortions.”