DC Leaders Brace for Federal Influence on Abortion Laws

The overturning of Roe v. Wade gave the power of abortion legislation to the states, but Congress still has power over D.C.’s abortion laws

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Just days after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, D.C.’s leaders got together in hopes of protecting local abortion laws. They want residents to know they support a woman’s right to choose but know the decision may not be up to the District.

The new abortion ruling lets states decide whether or not to allow abortion, but since D.C. is not a state, Congress has final authority over its laws. If Republicans take control of the House and Senate in the midterms, District officials expect conservatives to target local abortion laws.

“We are going to be left perhaps at the mercy of a Republican Congress,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said. “We already can’t spend local funds for abortion services.”

Recently, Republican members of Congress blocked D.C.’s ability to legalize recreational marijuana. Now, D.C. is worried it could happen again with abortion.

“We certainly have to be prepared," Mayor Muriel Bowser said. "We have to be very focused on protecting our residents.”

A Republican Congress could also take aim at more than just D.C.'s abortion laws. One member even said he wanted to overturn the District’s self-governance entirely.

“I look forward to ending D.C.’s failed experiment of home rule once and for all,” Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) told Politico.

“Well, the very idea enraged, that a slap in the face, took me by surprise,” Norton said. “I knew they’d do everything they can to the District, but to drive us back to before home rule, we got to stop that."

Without a vote in Congress, it is left to Norton, D.C.’s non-voting delegate, to try to persuade them to not meddle with local laws.

“I think the our only recourse will be in the Senate,” Norton said. “Even when we have a Republican-dominated Senate they, tend not to be as crazy as Republicans in the House.”

For now, District leaders hope in the midterms voters across the country will keep D.C. in mind.

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