Part of the District 30 Democratic Club meeting Wednesday night turned into a little history lesson on abortion, one of the hottest topics in Maryland and the country.
Club Vice President Sharon Blugis moderated the discussion at the Michael E. Busch Library in Annapolis and told the audience that abortion had been legal in the United States for about the first half of the 19th century.
Some of the story she summarized is also detailed by Planned Parenthood, a healthcare provider and abortion rights organization, in a timeline that notes, as Blugis did, that midwives performed the procedure in the early 1800s.
By the early 1900s, the practice was banned in all states, with a few exceptions. And, at the request of the American Medical Association, it was performed only at the discretion of and by doctors, most of whom were men.
In 1969, the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) became the first group to advocate for abortion rights.
Today, Maryland is one of the few states with strong pro-abortion laws, including one approved this year to expand insurance coverage and provide abortion care.
The Abortion Care Access Act also earmarks $3.5 million to train healthcare professionals such as midwives, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, but the money won’t be available until next year. . Time-limited Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed the bill. Yet it became law after the legislature overruled its veto. But Hogan refused to release the money earlier.
House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) sponsored legislation during this year’s session to pose a question on the November general election ballot asking voters whether to change the state constitution to include the right to access abortion services. This bill has stalled in the Senate Finance Committee.
“I’m just overall pissed at the Senate,” said Blugis, an Anne Arundel County abortion-rights advocate who faulted Senate Speaker Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) for not having broached the subject during an election year.
Due to the United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, states are empowered to pass anti-abortion laws.
Ferguson told Maryland Matters in August that in passing the Abortion Care Access Act, “we did what was most important and that’s what we knew we could do.”
A post-Roe world
Erin Bradley, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Maryland, summarized what is happening in other states.
Earlier this month, the South Carolina State Senate rejected a total ban on abortion. A judge temporarily blocked setting a six-week window to allow an abortion, leaving the current limit of 20 weeks (after conception) in place.
The Indiana legislature has approved a nearly complete ban on abortion with exceptions for rape, incest, and certain medical emergencies. It entered into force on September 15. However, a judge ruled on Thursday to block the ban and allow abortion procedures to resume. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (right) said in a statement that he plans to appeal.
Although abortion remains legal, up to 20 weeks gestation, in Virginia and North Carolina, some conservative lawmakers in those states continue to consider approving tougher anti-abortion laws.
“It shows how fluid abortion rights are right now. It’s everywhere,” Bradley said Wednesday. “Maryland is the southernmost state where abortion is considered protected.”
This is why Del. Nicole Williams (D-Prince George’s) continues to work on comprehensive legislation to introduce when the 90-day legislative session resumes in January.
Williams joined Bradley and Michael Spivey, professor of constitutional law at the University of Maryland at College Park, to participate in a panel discussion titled “The Future in a Post-Roe World.”
Williams sponsored a bill this year to protect health care providers from civil and criminal penalties for providing abortion and other health care to patients. However, his bill failed to make it out of the House Health and Government Operations Committee.
Williams is unsure whether she will reintroduce that bill in next year’s session. Another measure she may propose would protect the licenses of medical professionals who provide abortion care.
“We’re looking at everything thoroughly … and what we should be doing here in Maryland to make sure Marylanders are safe and those who come to Maryland will be safe,” she said.
Spivey called Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion to overturn Roe “dishonest, cynical and demeaning.” There is no respect for women in this decision.
Spivey summed up what he called some “myths” according to Alito that abortion is not part of the American landscape, with the court correcting a miscarriage of justice by comparing the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education and the ruling comes out the court of the abortion debate.
He said Alito even cites a 13th century case as part of his argument.
“How that is relevant to the US Constitution is beyond me,” South County Democratic Club president Spivey told Anne Arundel. “It’s a political court. You can’t hide from this anymore. As democrats, we need to stand up and say, “Enough is enough. Were done.'”
Howard County expands abortion care
In a related development, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball (D) announced Thursday that his jurisdiction will provide $1 million over three years to expand reproductive services to students attending Howard Community College.
The funding will create a pilot program between the community college and the county health department to extend hours of operation, offer telemedicine and other services.
Additional services should be phased in over several months at the community college clinic.
“Reproductive health care has become weapons throughout our country, especially since the repeal of Roe v. Wade. As County Executive, I will continue to unequivocally support the right of women to use their own voice and make their own choices for their reproductive health care and family planning needs,” Ball said in a statement. . “The program we are announcing today will prioritize preventive reproductive care for women and increase health care services for all.