'It's not a drill': Planned Parenthood leader on Supreme Court ruling
Friday’s Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade has reverberations even in Maryland, where abortions have been legal for 30 years. To get a sense of the decision’s impact in the state, WYPR’s Rachel Baye spoke with Karen Nelson, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, on Thursday, just before the ruling. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Baye: You started to say that people in Maryland are worried. Tell me what the concerns are.
Nelson: We have access issues already in Maryland. Now, if other states lose access to abortion care, there's a concern that our volumes are going to go high, with people traveling from other states to to get health care here within this state.
Baye: You mentioned access issues already in Maryland. Can you elaborate on that?
Nelson: Oh yeah. Two thirds of the counties in Maryland do not have abortion providers.
Baye: Are you able to provide medicinal abortions via telehealth in-state?
Nelson: Yes. There is a counseling session and you would have to qualify for no physical examination. So not everybody does, but if you do, then we can do this via telemedicine and you can get your pills by mail.
Baye: Let’s enter the world that this Mississippi decision has come down. Does that give greater leeway for political figures — states attorneys, who are elected, politicians in general — to try to criminalize or otherwise make abortions more difficult in Maryland?
Nelson: When we talk about Maryland, we feel very supported. It is not the same across the country. So again, we worry about people who live in other zip codes and live in other states — what they could be subjected to. And we want to make sure that our providers are protected here when they see patients from other states.
Baye: There's been a lot of talk nationally about the next step in this slippery slope being contraception of various types. It sounds like that's not really at risk here in Maryland. But do you think there's a risk of, for example, people coming from other states to try to seek contraception here in Maryland?
Nelson: Generations have been growing up with access to abortion care, access to contraception, and don't have any idea of what healthcare looks like without that. So in some ways, it feels so absolutely crazy and unbelievable. But look, it is happening. It's not a drill. It's not hypothetical. We are seeing this — there are laws on the books that are going to go into place when this Supreme Court decision comes out. There are bans that are going to happen because of it. So I don't think that it is out of line to be worried about what other things that they're going to come gunning for.
Baye: And again, contraception could be on that list?
Nelson: Absolutely. Why not? What's not on the table at this point?