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Elections Have Consequenses

May 15, 2022

Thirty Years of Abortion History in Maryland

In 1992, Maryland voters approved – by a 2-1 margin – a ballot question on abortion in our state. It read:

“Revises Maryland’s abortion law to prohibit state interference with woman’s abortion decision before fetus is viable, or, under certain conditions, at any time and to provide certain exceptions to the requirement that a physician notify an unmarried minor’s parent or guardian prior to minor’s abortion; repeals pre-abortion information requirements about abortion alternatives; repeals some, and clarifies other, provisions related to abortion referral; requires that abortions be performed by licensed physicians; provides good-faith immunity under certain conditions to physicians performing abortions; authorizes State to adopt abortion regulations; repeals certain penalty and disciplinary provisions related to the performance of abortions.”

In almost every way, this ballot question codified Roe v. Wade in our state, the exception being that it specified parental notification requirements, which Roe did not. But, in addition to the fact that attempts to repeal this ballot measure, known as Question 6 have failed, we are one of the few states in the country where third-trimester abortions are legal. And, our legislature in 2022 actually expanded this law to fund training for certain health care professionals, lifting the requirement that only licensed physicians could perform abortions.

The Maryland House passed language for a constitutional amendment here which would have added this right to abortion care to our state constitution. The session ended before the Maryland Senate could take up the amendment. However, the Abortion Care Access Act passed both chambers comfortably, and Gov. Hogan’s veto of the measure was easily overridden.

So, no problem – right?

Actually, it would be incredibly important not to rest comfortably here with all this legislative support for abortion care access in our state.

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) approved in their preliminary internal process following their hearing of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization the overturning of Roe v. Wade. A draft opinion written by Associate Justice Samuel Alito was recently leaked to the press confirming their intent to do this. The news sent shock waves throughout the country, although quite a few legal observers saw this coming with the conservative Supreme Court appointments by Trump rammed through the U.S. Senate. But usually, the elimination of a 50-year legal precedent of a right affecting half the U.S. population follows a more gradual process.

Not so, with this conservative Supreme Court majority. The Mississippi law at issue in Dobbs established a fetal viability standard of 15 weeks, which is medically impossible. Just upholding this law, and allowing a Texas law establishing viability of 8 weeks to stand would have most certainly started many states down that path. Almost weekly we read of other states that are passing similar restrictions.

Overturning Roe allows states to simply outlaw all abortions (the Dobbs law that the Court upholds in their decision allows no exception for rape or incest). Period. Thirteen states have what are known as “trigger laws” which provide that immediately upon the Court’s overturning of Roe abortion will be illegal in their state, and at least 10 states are currently in the process of passing similar laws.

Wrong!

If the U.S. House and Senate gain Republican majorities in 2022, both will most certainly pass laws outlawing abortion nationwide. This law would most certainly be vetoed by President Biden. But in two years, with the White House again up for grabs, if the Republicans can take over the Executive Branch of our government and repeat their Legislative Branch wins, Maryland’s law will disappear along with any other state laws that allow for abortion anywhere in the U.S. If you think this can’t happen, please don’t be too sure.

We are in a period in our history where representation of the population in the U.S. Senate, as well as the U.S. House, is wildly out of proportion. For example, California has a population of 39 million people. Wyoming has a population of 500,000. Both states each have two U.S. Senators. But consider this: California’s population totals the same number as we find in 22 other states. So California’s 39 million people have two senators and 22 other states in the country with a total population of 38 million have a total of 44 senators.

Additionally, four of the members of the Supreme Court were appointed by the Electoral College. That is to say, neither George Bush nor Donald Trump became president by winning the popular vote but were in fact elected by the Electoral College. During Bush’s second term he elevated John Roberts to be Chief Justice, and appointed Samuel Alito. Trump only served one term, but appointed Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett who were confirmed by the Senate.

Representatives of the Electoral College reflect the same imbalance as in the above example of California whose populations voted for Al Gore and Hillary Clinton, but were outvoted in the Electoral College by states whose populations elected George Bush and Donald Trump.

So, it won’t matter if Maryland voters codified Roe v. Wade and support a woman’s right to her choice of abortion care. There are clearly many things wrong with our so-called “representative democracy” at this point, but all we – and those who share our views and values –  can do is vote.

The 2022 Election Cycle

Many political pundits and pollsters claim that a Republican take-over of Capitol Hill is likely. It’s also widely believed that the Supreme Court’s overturning Roe will not actually change very many voters from Republicans to Democrats. But what it will do, and what we have to do everything we can to bring about, is increase turnout. Given the Republicans’ relentless attack on voting rights across the country, that will not be even a little bit easy.

Stay tuned as if the reproductive health care of every person in the U.S. depended on it!  It will!

 

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