Councilmember Robert White Sets Committee Hearing on Abortion Access Measures, Encourages Colleagues to Join him in Advancing Additional Reproductive Justice Reforms

WASHINGTON, DC (May 16, 2022) – The devastating draft Supreme Court decision on abortion, and the potential additional damage to civil liberties for which it lays the foundation, demand a rapid response. Councilmember Robert White, who chairs the Committee on Government Operations and Facilities, announced today that he expects to hold a hearing July 14, 2022 on pending abortion-related legislation, including Councilmember Christina Henderson’s “Enhancing Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2022” and Councilmember Brianne Nadeau’s “Human Rights Sanctuary Amendment Act of 2022.” Councilmember White is simultaneously reviewing potential additional reforms to further ensure that DC can be a safe haven for people seeking abortions from other states, and to protect DC-based providers and clinics; including increasing clinic capacity, providing economic support for patients, and strengthening abortion provider protections. The Councilmember invites his Council colleagues to join him in advancing this work and moving it forward in a swift and coordinated manner.

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Councilmember Robert White’s full statement follows:

I remain deeply disturbed by the Supreme Court’s leaked draft decision, which would overturn Roe v. Wade and lead to states barring access to abortion across the country. Previously, the United States has joined the international community in affirming that reproductive rights are human rights. Abortion access is healthcare; it is a racial justice issue; it is an economic justice issue; and it is an LGBTQ+ issue, since not everyone who needs an abortion identifies as a woman. The threat that this Supreme Court decision, if enacted, poses to pregnant people’s lives and health and to their families’ economic wellbeing is grave. Protecting reproductive rights is crucial, particularly in the District where the Black maternal mortality rate is twice as high as the overall average. 

If the Court leaves abortion laws to the elected officials in each state, it would have a devastating impact on abortion rights. Gerrymandered districts, restrictive voting laws that disenfranchise people of color, and the persistence of dark money in political campaigns (a practice that the Supreme Court itself greenlighted with the Citizens United decision) would likely result in the election of anti-abortion legislators despite the fact that the majority of Americans support a the right to chose. 

This draft Supreme Court decision is particularly problematic for District of Columbia residents who would be vulnerable to Congress passing local restrictions on abortion. We’ve already seen some in Congress intent on bullying the District, working to implement budget riders to restrict us from using our local tax dollars to provide abortions for people with limited incomes. While local legislation alone cannot forestall that potential outcome, it is incumbent upon us to reinforce our existing human rights infrastructure in local law.

Make no mistake, the end of safe, legal abortion in Washington, DC would be fatal for many. The Centers for Disease Control found that it is more life-threatening to carry a pregnancy to term than to have an abortion. In 2017, legal abortions resulted in two deaths, while the 2017 maternal mortality rate as a result of pregnancy was 17.3 per 100,000 live births nationwide. A study from Tulane University showed that states with more extreme abortion restrictions have higher incidences of maternal mortality. In DC, where abortion is currently safe and legal, 71 per 100,000 births to Black parents resulted in a loss of life for the birther. The impact of an abortion ban would be deadly.

For Immediate Release: May 16, 2022

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