Fearing the U.S. Supreme Court could eventually overturn or weaken the nearly 50-year-old abortion ruling of Roe v. Wade, top female lawmakers in Maryland are proposing legislation to strengthen a woman’s right to choose.
The specific proposals would expand health care licenses for professionals to conduct abortions and ensure women of color and low-income communities receive financial assistance through Medicaid or other insurances to cover abortions.
A third proposal seeks to amend the state constitution regarding the “right to reproductive liberty” to prohibit the state from infringing on that right “unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means.” If this bill passed before the 90-day session ends in April, then it would go before voters on ballots for the November general election.
Currently, Maryland law makes the procedure legal.
Public hearings on all three bills are scheduled for Feb. 22 before the House’s Health and Government Operations Committee.
“We need continued protection and the broadening of access to abortion care in our state and we need it now,” Karen Nelson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, said Monday during a virtual press conference with several state lawmakers. “Abortion is health care and health care is a human right. The threats of overtaking Roe V. Wade should be taken seriously.”
In December, the majority-conservative Supreme Court refused to block a Texas law that bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy but allows the general public to file civil lawsuits against providers who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance of inducement of an abortion.”
Later this year, the court plans to hear a Mississippi case that wants to keep in place a law to ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which could effectively end Roe v. Wade.
According to a September 2019 report from the Guttmacher Institute, which has an office in northwest D.C., about 71% of Maryland counties had no abortion providers in 2017.
In the neighboring states of West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania, the figures stood at 98%, 93% and 85%, respectively.
“Regardless of what states around us do, Maryland will ensure that women have access to the care that they deserve,” said House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County).