Survivor Safety: Abortion Access for Survivors

Jul 26th, 2022

By Jane Mahon, Program Intern

Maryland is one of 16 states that have enacted state laws protecting the right to receive an abortion (Center for Reproductive Rights, 2022). Maryland’s Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) adds additional protections ensuring women's rights to an abortion regardless of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade (Congress, 2004). Furthermore, Maryland's House Bill 937 was enacted in 2022 and will support abortion care access by increasing abortion availability. It does this by permitting more health care practitioners to perform procedures, increasing the amount of training for providers, and strengthening financial support for women who face economic hardship (Maryland General Assembly, 2022).

On December 21, 2021, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 597 U.S. ___ (2022), was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional. Mississippi passed a law in 2018 called the “Gestational Age Act”, Miss. Code Ann. §41–41–191, which mandates that after 15 weeks of gestational age, all abortions are prohibited (Oyez, 2022). Jackson Women’s Health Organization took the law to the U.S. Supreme Court. The holding in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), finding that a pregnant woman’s choice of whether or not to have abortion is a Constitutional right, was overturned on June 24, 2022. With about 1 in 7 survivors of rape becoming pregnant (Basile et al., 2022), fighting for access to abortions and reproductive health care is vital for supporting primary sexual assault prevention.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade immediately made abortion illegal in 7 states with 17 others expected to follow suit in the coming weeks and months (Duchneskie & Sobey, 2022). Although most anti-abortion groups agree with exceptions to allow abortion when the pregnancy resulted from incest or rape, many state abortion bans do not include these exceptions. States such as Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas have no allowances for abortions for survivors of rape or incest (Hoffman, 2022). Even when there are carve outs which allow abortion for rape survivors, they are often of little help in the real world because they fail to account for coercive sex, sometimes include reporting requirements, and survivors often face strong resistance when they try to use the exception and obtain reproductive care.

Terminating legal access to abortions creates an opportunity for abusive partners to use pregnancy as a form of control over their spouses (Rodhe, 2019). Abusive partners often coerce survivors into “rapid repeat pregnancy” which creates a legal relationship for the protection of the child that is nearly impossible to end (WSCADV, 2022). The number one cause of death of a pregnant woman is due to homicide, further emphasizing the importance of access to reproductive healthcare (Rodhe, 2019). With 1 in 4 survivors fearful of calling the police for help due to privacy and retaliation threats, outlawing abortions gives perpetrators another tool to control their partners (WSCADV, 2022).

Fighting for body autonomy and reproductive rights is a vital foundational concept for sexual assault survivors. To learn more about access to abortion in Maryland, check out MCASA’s website at

Works Cited

Abortion Care Access Act. Maryland General Assembly. (2022, June 6). Retrieved from: 

Basile, K.C., Smith, S.G., Kresnow, M., Khatiwada S., & Leemis, R.W. (2022). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2016/2017 Report on Sexual Violence. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from:

Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. (2022). Oyez. Retrieved from:

Hoffman, J. (2022, June 9). The new abortion bans: Almost no exceptions for rape, incest or health. The New York Times. Retrieved from:

John Duchneskie, J., & Sobey, F. G. (2022, June 28). Here's where abortion is now banned in the United States. Retrieved from:

Rodhe, A. (2019, June 5). How abortion bans impact survivors. Day One. Retrieved from: 

Text - S.2020 - 108th Congress (2003-2004): Freedom of Choice Act. (2004, January 22).

What if Roe fell? Center for Reproductive Rights. (2022, June 8). Retrieved from:

WSCADV statement on Roe V. Wade: People with abusive partners deserve freedom and options. Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV). (2022, May 31). Retrieved from:

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