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Abortion Providers, Policymakers Discuss Strains on Maryland Clinics After Roe v. Wade Reversal

People protest in response to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. The court’s decision overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade case and erases a federal right to an abortion. Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images.

Maryland abortion clinics are “facing an overload of patients” after the Supreme Court’s reversal Roe v. Wade, a Montgomery County clinic administrator said this week.

Allie Harper, executive administrator at the Potomac Family Planning Center, said that abortion clinics in the state are seeing an influx of patients, many of whom are from outside of state including West Virginia, and Delaware.

Harper said that for the first time her clinic couldn’t schedule patients on the same day they arrive.

“I don’t know what we’ll do. It’s hard,” Harper said. “We can’t just hire staff that start working the next day. They require a lot of training.”

Case Manager at the D.C. Abortion Fund Dana Simpson said her last shift — during which the Supreme Court decision was announced — had much higher call volume than her previous one.

The women shared their experiences at a virtual town hall by Montgomery County policymakers on Thursday evening. The discussion was moderated by Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer.

Del. Ariana Kelly (D-Montgomery), a featured speaker and leading abortion rights advocate in the General Assembly, said that the state has a shortage of abortion providers, stating that two-thirds of the Maryland counties don’t have any.

Other factors that contribute to a shortage of abortion providers include a lack of clinics in rural areas, a lack of diverse and multilingual providers, and a decreasing number of practitioners over the past 30 years even as the state’s population has increased, Kelly said.

Dr. Andrea Desai, an OB-GYN at the University of Maryland Medical System, said that the Roe v. Wade reversal “devastates” the relationship between doctors and pregnant patients.

“[The decision] threatens sort of the basis of the medical care that we can provide, and it has a potentially larger ripple effect than just abortion care,” Desai said.

She said that the procedures for abortions, miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies are the same, so if the lines between those medical operations are blurred, more patients could die from pregnancy complications.

Kelly expressed the importance of electing more pro-abortion rights candidates, particularly in the state senate.

She said that at least two Democratic senators from Prince George’s County are anti-abortion, and that number would likely rise to three after the upcoming election.

“We need to get people in Prince George’s County involved. We need them,” Kelly said. “It’s really important at the state level, the issue of abortion care is going to reside within the states for the foreseeable future.”

She also discussed a need to create a right to abortion and contraceptives in the state constitution, an effort which has seen support in the House of Delegates, but failed to move forward in the Maryland Senate. If bills like the one sponsored by Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) last session were brought to referendum, the measure would likely get support from 75% of the public, Kelly said.

“That legislation will elevate those protections that we codified 30 years ago in the Maryland statute to totally protected,” Kelly said. “We no longer have constitutional protections at the federal level. It is really important that we get them at the state level.”