Consumer Alert: Questions and Answers on Abortion Care and Freedom of Expression in the District of Columbia

At the Office of Attorney General, we stand up for people’s rights, including their rights to access health care and to peacefully protest. The District has strong laws protecting people’s right to access abortion care. And, of course, the First Amendment and District Law protect the right to express beliefs.

At OAG, it is our job to enforce the law and to educate the public about their rights and the resources available to them. Please read and share our Q&A on abortion care access and the right to protest in the District, below.

Did the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case change DC’s abortion laws?

No. DC’s local laws protecting access to abortion are strong and they have not changed because of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case. In 2020, the District of Columbia Council passed legislation protecting the ability of everyone in the District—both residents and visitors to DC—to make their own reproductive health decisions without government interference. Last year, the Council further strengthened local law to reaffirm the right to reproductive health care, including abortion.

Who can access abortion care in the District of Columbia?

Anyone—those who live in DC and those who travel to DC from other states—can access abortion care in DC.

How can I access abortion care in DC?

Because of the strong reproductive rights laws in DC, you have several options:

  • Contact your health care provider to ask if they can provide abortion care for you.
  • Contact the DC Abortion Fund, an organization serving the District, Maryland, and Virginia, and patients coming to this area for abortion care, or Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC, Inc. They will help you find a provider who can help you get care.
  • Contact an abortion clinic in DC directly to make an appointment and have your questions answered. The National Abortion Federation can help you find a clinic near you.
  • Get a prescription for a medication abortion, which the Food and Drug Administration authorized for use until up to 10 weeks of pregnancy and which can sometimes be prescribed later in pregnancy for  evidence-based use . You can ask your provider if they can provide a prescription for you for medication abortion, which you can pick up from a pharmacy or receive in the mail and then can take safely at home. Click here for a list of providers and pharmacies that can help you access it. If you face any complications self-managing your miscarriage or abortion, you can contact the Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline at 833–246–2632.
  • Be careful of internet searches for abortion that may yield results for fake clinics or pregnancy help centers that do not provide reproductive health care, but rather, exist instead to deter people from getting abortions.

Is financial assistance and support available for people seeking abortion care in DC?

The DC Abortion FundPlanned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC Inc.National Network of Abortion FundsNational Abortion Federation, or The Brigid Alliance can help those in need of support, including financial support, to access abortion in DC.

Federal law prohibits DC from spending any government funds on abortion care. However, DC residents and those traveling to DC to access abortion care may be able to secure financial assistance through the above nonprofit organizations.

Is there a time limit for accessing abortion care in DC?

No. Abortion is legal at all stages of pregnancy in DC and is provided when patients and physicians, together, determine it is medically appropriate. Patients may consult with their doctors and make decisions that best protect their health and safety, even later in a pregnancy.

Does DC law require parental notification if someone under 18 is seeking an abortion?

No. You do not need permission to have an abortion in DC—not from your parents, guardian, or the other person involved in the pregnancy. And your medical records about the abortion are confidential.

Does DC have mandatory waiting periods to access abortion care?

No. You can access an abortion immediately once you have an appointment.

Do crisis pregnancy centers in DC provide abortions?

No. Please find an abortion clinic that is recommended by a health care provider, the National Abortion Federation, Planned Parenthood, or the DC Abortion Fund. Crisis pregnancy centers do exist in the District—as they do in many states—but they often are focused on preventing abortions and may use deceptive tactics to delay people from accessing health care.

If I live in another state, can I come to DC for abortion care?

Yes. You are welcome here and, although we can’t control other states’ actions, we will do all we can to protect patients from any state who access abortion care here. Please see above for organizations that can help you pay for and access abortion in DC.

You may also be able to get a prescription for medication abortion that you can get mailed to you and then safely take from home or in another location of your choosing. The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of medication abortion until up to 10 weeks of pregnancy, and it is sometimes prescribed later in pregnancy for evidence-based use. Click here for a list of providers and pharmacies that may be able to help you access it in your state. If you face any complications self-managing your miscarriage or abortion, you can contact the Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline at 833–246–2632.

What can I do if anti-choice protestors try to block access to an abortion clinic or threaten staff or patients?

First, please call 911 for assistance in an emergency situation.

Additionally, the Office of the Attorney General enforces the District’s laws, like the Human Rights Act and the Bias-Related Crimes Act, which provide civil legal protections for people seeking abortion services and those providing that care. We will continue to stand up for and protect clinics that provide abortion care from those who seek to illegally interfere with access to care. Any clinics or patients facing threats or intimidation should contact our office at once the issue is safely resolved. Federal laws protecting access to clinics also apply.

What are people’s rights to protest in DC?

  • Everyone has the right to protest peaceably under both federal and DC laws. The right to peaceably protest and demonstrate is protected by federal law, including the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and by District law. The right to protest peaceably applies to everyone, including US citizens, legal residents, and immigrants. (Note: Check with an immigration attorney if you have questions about your specific situation. Protests may increase the likelihood of interacting with law enforcement, which could impact current or future immigration status.)
  • Other private individuals may not interfere with your right to peacefully protest. Counter-protestors also have free speech rights. However, individuals may not use force, violence, or threats to limit, or attempt to limit, your right to peaceably protest. Under the District of Columbia’s Bias-Related Crimes Act, it is illegal to commit a criminal act, such as assault, to prevent someone from exercising a right, including the First Amendment right to protest, or because of someone’s real or perceived political affiliation. If this happens to you, please notify law enforcement immediately.
  • You are permitted to document, photograph, and record protests and demonstrations. This means you may be photographed or recorded while attending or participating in a protest or demonstration. It also means you have the right to photograph and record law enforcement as long as it does not interfere with police activity.
  • There are places in DC where the right to protest may be limited. Your right to protest is strongest in traditional “public forums,” like streets, sidewalks, and parks—but DC is a mix of local and federal land, and protections that apply may be different in different areas. For example, it is against federal law to protest on Supreme Court grounds, and protests and demonstrations on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol require a permit and are restricted to certain areas. There are also laws that limit protests at or near private residences.
  • The right to protest does not protect violence or civil disobedience. The right to protest is balanced with the need to protect the safety of District residents and visitors—including protestors, counter-protesters, and bystanders. The First Amendment does not protect speech that incites violence, and it does not protect violence or civil disobedience that occurs at a protest. Acts of civil disobedience, like blocking entrances to buildings or physically stopping passers-by, are not protected forms of speech and may result in arrest.
  • Open carry of firearms is illegal in the District. If you see a private individual carrying a gun, inform a law enforcement officer immediately.
  •  If you are arrested, you have the right to an attorney before speaking with law enforcement and if you are charged with a crime.

If anyone interferes with your right to peaceably protest, or if you experience discrimination because of your political affiliation, contact our office at once the issue is safely resolved.