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District of Columbia Abortion Laws

Abortion is legal throughout all stages of pregnancy in Washington, D.C. (District of Columbia).

District of Columbia Abortion Law After Dobbs

In Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization (2022), the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending federal protections for abortion care that had been the law for decades. The Supreme Court's decision represents a dramatic retreat in reproductive rights and privacy law.

States now have the power to regulate and even prohibit abortion. This has led to a wide variance in state abortion laws.

Unlike states like Texas that moved to adopt new abortion bans in anticipation of Dobbs, the District of Columbia had already taken steps to secure abortion rights. The Dobbs decision had no immediate impact on D.C. law. The district repealed its abortion law decades ago. There is no law banning abortion in D.C. Abortion remains legal at all stages of pregnancy.

D.C.’s Abortion Laws

Even before Roe, D.C. abortion laws provided discretion for exceptions. They gave physicians the authority to perform an abortion to preserve the life or health of the pregnant woman. In a court challenge, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld both the law and a broad definition of health, one that included the psychological health of the patient.

Supporters of legal abortion were aware that the Supreme Court might overturn Roe long before the Dobbs decision in 2022. The composition of the court had changed over time, moving in a more conservative direction. Protecting abortion access became a priority for D.C. lawmakers.

Members of the D.C. Council, the district's legislative body, strongly support the right to privacy in reproductive health decisions. Both before and after Dobbs, they passed laws banning discrimination against healthcare providers for their participation in abortion services. Legislators also approved legal steps to provide sanctuary for non-residents who seek abortion assistance in D.C.

Washington D.C. now has some of the least restrictive abortion laws in the country. D.C. law includes a right to bodily autonomy that recognizes each individual's right to decide matters related to contraception, pregnancy, and abortion.

Washington D.C. Abortion Laws at a Glance

Here’s a quick summary of abortion laws in Washington D.C. You can also locate information on state laws that border the nation's capital. See Maryland abortion laws and Virginia abortion laws.

Relevant Washington D.C. Abortion Laws

District of Columbia Code, Division I, Government of District

Title 2, Government Administration

Chapter 14, Human Rights

Chapter 14A, Human Rights Sanctuary - Right of Bodily Autonomy

  • 2-1461.01 - District government nonparticipation in interstate investigation and proceedings interfering with certain rights
  • 2-1461.02 - Private right of action for use of courts to interfere in with exercise in the District of certain rights

Title 7, Human Health Care and Safety

Chapter 20D, Reproductive Health Care Protections

  • 7-2086.01 - Government noninterference in reproductive health care decisions

When Is Abortion Legal?

Abortion is legal in Washington, D.C. at all stages of pregnancy.

Consent Requirements

Standard voluntary consent requirements for medical procedures or treatments apply. There are no parental notification or consent laws in D.C. for minors.

Residency Requirements  

There are no residency requirements for abortion services in D.C.

Medication Abortion Permitted?

Yes. Medication abortion services are legal in D.C. at this time.

Physician and Health Care Licensing Requirements

A licensed healthcare provider or healthcare professional may perform an abortion on a consenting patient if they are acting within the scope of their licensed practice.


Note: State and local laws are subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts that include federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the status of any state or local law(s) you are reviewing.

A Note About Medication Abortion

A recent study by the Guttmacher Institute shows that medication abortion accounted for some 63% of abortions provided in the U.S. in 2023. The two-pill regimen used in medication abortion often allows a patient privacy while inducing an abortion in the first 10-12 weeks of pregnancy.

In 2022, abortion opponents filed a legal challenge to the use of mifepristone, one of the drugs used in medication abortion. The drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000. Challengers opposed the use of the drug and FDA decisions in 2016 and 2021 to amend certain rules related to its use.

At the same time, state attorneys general in states where abortion remained legal filed a separate federal court action seeking to maintain access to abortion medications.

The U.S. Supreme Court placed the lower court rulings on hold and permitted continued access to mifepristone at present. The Court is expected to issue a final decision in 2024.

The Unique Role of Congress in D.C. Law

Although the District of Columbia has legislative authority and enacts laws, it is not a state. Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress retains oversight of the seat of the federal government. As a result, it has authority over D.C. government and laws.

As of 2024, the Elected members of the D.C. Council and the D.C. Mayor support reproductive rights. The majority of registered voters in Washington, D.C. belong to the Democratic Party.

At times, a more politically diverse Congress has intervened in D.C. government affairs. For example, the Dornan Amendment is a federal law passed by Congress. It prevents D.C. government from using funds to provide Medicaid funds for abortions for low-income persons except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the patient's life.

After Dobbs ended the federal right to abortion nationwide, abortion providers like Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington shared concerns about the impact that a future Congress, one hostile to abortion, might have in the district. Some observers claim statehood would allow D.C. residents to guide law and policy without such interference.

Related Resources for D.C. Abortion Laws

Have More Questions About Abortion Laws in D.C.? Contact a Lawyer

Abortion discussions can engender passionate disagreements whether you’re pro-choice, anti-choice, a young woman, or a concerned parent. For specific concerns about a particular case, we recommend contacting a D.C. healthcare attorney for further advice and assistance.

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