ANNAPOLIS – Abortion opponents in the General Assembly are putting all their energy into one bill this session: a measure to require minors to get a judge’s permission when seeking an abortion without their parents’ knowledge.
The bill filed Monday by Sen. Nancy Jacobs, R-Harford, is likely to be the only anti-abortion legislation introduced this session.
“All pro-life legislative efforts will focus on getting a bill centered on parent notification through,” said Sen. Larry Haines, R-Carroll.
Haines has been the prime sponsor of past legislation to ban late-term abortions, or what foes term partial-birth abortions. He said he has a draft of the same bill this year, but will probably hold off to concentrate on the parental notification bill.
Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick, said he will push for the parent notification bill, however, he has his own measure to boost. He said he would add an amendment to Ehrlich’s budget to end taxpayer funding of abortions.
“I believe, and most Marylanders support the position, parents should know when their little children are going to get abortions,” Mooney said.
Despite the united front by supporters, the bill still may face the same fate as past anti-abortion efforts – failure.
“I think many senators are not opposed to parents being notified, but judicial intervention is going way too far,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert. “My prediction is that anti-abortion bills introduced will not be successful.”
In three of the last four legislative sessions, Sen. J. Robert Hooper, R- Harford, has proposed a parental notification bill similar to Jacobs’ bill, but it never made it out of the Judicial Proceedings Committee. He hopes this new bill will do better.
“Mine never saw the light of day,” he said.
Mooney has unsuccessfully proposed legislation in two previous sessions to stop public funding, through Medicaid, for abortions.
Although all the Senate standing committee chairmen are new, that fact may not improve the chances for anti-abortion legislation.
The parental notification bill will have its first hearing in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Committee, where Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, D- Baltimore County, is the chairwoman.
“This appears to be a step-by-step process by the opponents of abortion to get rid of abortion altogether,” said Hollinger, although she declined to state a position on the legislation.
Jacobs’ bill, SB 457, requires a minor to petition the court for a waiver of parental notification. The court has 48 hours to grant the petition or it is approved automatically. The court must grant a petition if there is “clear and convincing evidence” of a pattern of physical, sexual or emotional abuse by a parent. Violation of the act is a misdemeanor.
Currently, Maryland is the only state that allows doctors, instead of judges, to override parental notification.
Delegate Carmen Amedori, R-Carroll, will file a House version of the bill by the end of the week.
“This bill is an important step for the concern and safety of our children,” Amedori said. “Our hope is this year we will proceed in a timely manner. . . and that everyone plays fair.”
Supporters of the legislation, she said, hope to get a bill to Gov. Robert Ehrlich, the first Republican governor in more than 34 years, and that he will sign it. He’s expected to give such legislation a more favorable reception than his Democratic predecessor, Parris Glendening.
Abortion rights activists have said such a bill is “unnecessary.” “Maryland has a law that is working,” said Wendy Royalty, Planned Parenthood of Maryland spokeswoman.
It’s an undue burden for a young girl to go before a judge, with whom she has no relationship, rather than before her own doctor, said Royalty. Doctors at Planned Parenthood have turned young women away after counseling them and determining they were not mature enough. The doctors suggested they involve their parents, Royalty added.
Republican legislators have been holding strategy sessions to plan their approach. They are applying pressure and their timing seems to be right. Maryland’s rate and number of abortions have risen since 1996, according to a study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute released in January. Nationally, abortions have declined, the research showed.
In neighboring Virginia, five anti-abortion bills are slowly making headway in the General Assembly. Last week, the Senate Education and Health Committee approved a parental consent bill for the first time.