ANNAPOLIS – An abortion-rights group has endorsed the re- election bids of state senators from Prince George’s and Baltimore counties in an attempt to prevent passage next year of a bill that would take away abortion rights.
The National Abortion Rights Action League on Tuesday backed Sen. F. Vernon Boozer, R-Baltimore County, and Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah, D-Prince George’s. Both in recent years have staunchly opposed a “partial-birth” abortion bill that NARAL officials said attempts to ban all abortions in the state.
Lawlah’s primary opponent, Del. C. Anthony Muse, D-Prince George’s, has failed to vote on several House abortion measures, said NARAL Executive Director Traci Siegel.
Muse could not be reached.
Boozer’s primary challenger, Republican Andrew Harris, is a vocal supporter of the partial-birth abortion ban bill.
“Partial-birth abortion is an unnecessary procedure, and the [American Medical Association] agrees,” said Harris, an obstetric anesthesiologist at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
The bill, sponsored during the last three sessions by Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, and others, seeks to ban abortions in which doctors partially deliver a fetus before collapsing its skull. Haines said he plans to re-introduce the bill next year.
The debate boils down to semantics. The league said the bill, which would specifically prohibit abortions in which a doctor “partially delivers a living fetus vaginally before killing the fetus and completing the delivery,” is vague enough to cover most abortion procedures.
“The bill itself could be interpreted to ban all abortions,” Siegel said.
But Haines said even “lay people” understand the bill’s intent. “It very specifically describes the partial-birth abortion medical procedure,” Haines said. “I don’t understand how they can continue to argue that position. I guess they want all the gory details.”
A 1992 referendum approved by Maryland voters banned abortions after a doctor decides a fetus can live outside the body.
But Haines said that is not enough. Under the law, a woman can still have a partial-birth abortion if the pregnancy threatens her health.
“That opens a door you can drive a truck through,” he said. “That leaves it so discretionary that it is still abortion on demand.”
Haines and Harris said Boozer and Lawlah had failed the voters in their districts. But the incumbents described their districts as pro-choice.
“I think being pro-choice is the main reason we won [in 1990],” said Lawlah, of Hillcrest Heights. “Many people here are pro-choice. The women, they just want equality. They want a say- so over their own lives.” -30-