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After the leaked Supreme Court opinion in the Jackson Womens’ Health Organization v. Dobbs case was made public, abortion providers and funders face the near certainty that, for vast swaths of the country, abortion could soon be illegal. While those located in states throughout the South and Midwest prepare for the mass closure of clinics within their state, “safe states” like Maryland, where abortion care is comprehensive and protected by state law, also anticipate their own set of challenges.
“This is something that we have been thinking about and… mobilizing to address to help mitigate the effects of Roe being overturned for a very long time, at least for the last two years,” said Lynn M. of the Baltimore Abortion Fund. “In Maryland, we recently passed the Abortion Care Access Act, which does a number of things to make abortion care accessible for residents in Maryland. It eliminates the private insurance deductible, it eliminates some of the loopholes in Medicaid that had previously prevented people from using their Medicaid benefits as intended to pay for abortion care, and it also expands the types of qualified providers that can provide abortion procedures in Maryland.”
Activists in Maryland have also been pressuring Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to release the $3.5 million set aside in the Abortion Care Access Act for the training of abortion providers across the state in 2022. Hogan has so far refused, and it is possible that these funds will not be accessible until 2023. This funding delay will add to the capacity crisis that many Maryland abortion providers see on the horizon, as Maryland becomes a likely destination for people from states that will lose abortion access.
“[W]e are going to lose abortion access in probably half the country in June. I mean, it could happen any day now, but especially after the leaked draft decision we know that it’s going to be really dire—it’s kind of the worst case scenario,” said Diana Horvath MD, MPH, an OB/GYN and abortion care provider. “So we know that capacity is going to have to go up in states that have friendlier climates for abortion.”
Horvath notes that abortion ending in large swaths of the country will not only impact people seeking abortion from out of state, but will have a direct impact on Marylanders as well. “People in Maryland have enjoyed comparatively good access to abortion… you can [typically] call and get an appointment within the next week. That’s going to change if we get a lot of people from out of state, and that’s why we need to increase capacity now,” Horvath said. “People in Maryland are still going to need abortions. So I want those folks to be able to get… [the] expedient rapid appointments that they were able to get before… I’ve heard people say, ‘Well, how is it going to affect me?’ and, well, that’s how it’s going to affect you: you’re not going to get in two days after you call because the clinics are going to be full of people who can’t get care near their home.”
Horvath is part of a group in Maryland developing an all-trimester abortion clinic called Partners in Abortion Care. Horvath, the co-founder and medical director, said the clinic will open soon in the city of College Park to help address the impending capacity crisis.
“[We] decided that we’d like something close to freeways and also accessible to the three major airports that are in the region, and that was a major reason why we picked something that was just inside the DC Beltway and accessible by road, accessible by transit,” Horvath said. “We didn’t want to pick something so far out that people couldn’t use transit to get there.”
In addition to picking a location that will be easily accessible to people from out of state seeking abortions, Partners in Abortion Care has also established bonds with abortion funds and providers throughout the South to help ensure that the people who need their services are able to access them. “My business partner Morgan [Nuzzo, a certified nurse midwife] and I, we’ve got 20 years of combined time working abortion care, and so we’ve spent a lot of time building relationships with people. And I actually work in two clinics in Alabama, “ Horvath said. “So some of it is just meeting as many people as possible and making sure that people know that you’re a resource for them. Some of it is attending meetings, being on committees, making sure that people know that you’re there and what you’re capable of doing.”
Partners in Abortion Care was originally planned to open by the fall of 2022, but due to an increase in donations to their GoFundMe after the Supreme Court opinion was leaked, they are optimistic that they may be able to open even earlier.
“We have been incredibly, incredibly amazed by the way that our community has come together after that draft got leaked. Our GoFundMe had been out for about a month before that, but after that draft decision came down we got a lot of donations, and they went from anywhere from a dollar up to many thousands of dollars,” Horvath said.
In addition to increasing the capacity for abortions within the state of Maryland, Lynn M. points to many other things people in Maryland can do in the face of the upcoming decision in Dobbs.
“[They can] connect with local abortion funds, grassroots organizations on the ground who have been doing the work, and lend their energy and their support and leverage their donations to further that work as opposed to recreating it or starting it from scratch,” she said.