ANNAPOLIS – Bills introduced Wednesday in the General Assembly would require a judge – not a doctor – to override the parental notification requirement for an underage girl to have an abortion.
Now, parents must be notified of their minor child’s abortion unless a doctor determines notice will cause the patient physical or emotional harm.
Two similar bills filed in the House and Senate, HB621 and SB351, will require a judge to determine waivers.
“It takes the decision out of the profit-making hands of the doctor, and gives the issue to an objective judge,” said Delegate Carmen Amedori, R-Carroll, a chief sponsor.
Parental involvement is crucial to get an accurate medical history, and in some cases, to protect children from sexual abuse or statutory rape, she said.
“Abortion, however safe it is in modern American, is still a major medical procedure,” said Clare McGrath-Merkle, executive director of the Center for Nonpartisan Pro-Life Politics at Pro-Life Maryland. “This is not just an abortion issue, it’s about child advocacy and child protection.”
Opponents said the change to court-ordered waivers might negatively affect women’s health.
“We think that involving the court puts a burdensome barrier on young people,” said John Nugent, Maryland Planned Parenthood director.
“It’s an access issue – it keeps young women from being able to access abortion,” said Ashlie Bagwell, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland. “Most young women involve a parent in these decisions, and those that don’t have good reason. The government should not mandate family communication,” she said.
The proposed law might lead to self-induced or illegal abortions, Bagwell said, or to prolonged decisions that delay abortions, making the procedure more risky.
The same bill was proposed last year by Amedori, but was withdrawn before it came to committee vote.
Amedori and supporters worked over the summer to solicit votes necessary to pass the bill, and now have the power to draw the bill to the House floor if it is purposefully stalled in committee, she said.
A similar Senate bill died in committee last year, 6-5.
“All pro-life legislation is tough to move in the committees,” said Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, a bill supporter. “If it gets to the floor of the Senate it will pass.”
Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, D-Baltimore, opposes the bill. She is chairwoman of the committee that will hear the Senate version.
“The reason I’m against it is we already have a law,” said Hollinger, a nurse. “If there is a question about the safety of a minor, either physical or otherwise, the bypass goes through the physician, not the courts.”