Maryland voters must decide whether to enshrine abortion rights in state constitution – Roce Today

Maryland voters will decide next year whether to enshrine abortion rights in the Maryland Constitution after the House of Delegates voted Thursday to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot.

The House voted 98-38 in favor of a bill that has already cleared the state Senate with the three-fifths needed to put the issue before voters in 2024. Voters would need a simple majority to approve it.

In June, the US Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, giving control over abortion to the states. Since then, states have been working to either limit or increase access to abortion.

Since November, three states have enshrined abortion protections in their constitutions, including California, Vermont and Michigan. Kentucky voters rejected a ballot measure aimed at denying constitutional protections to abortion.

Missouri voters could decide whether to restore abortion rights if constitutional amendments are passed in 2024. The proposals would amend the state constitution to protect abortion and pregnant patients’ rights, as well as access to birth control. Most abortions are now illegal in the state. There are exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest.

In Ohio, supporters of a proposal to enshrine abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution are collecting signatures so that more than 413,000 voters can put the issue on the fall ballot.

Abortion rights are already protected under Maryland law. The state passed legislation in 1991 to protect abortion rights if the Supreme Court allowed abortion restrictions. That law was put on the ballot and voters approved the right in 1992 with 62% of the vote. Advocates argue that adding the protection to the state constitution would make it more difficult for opponents to try to strip abortion rights in the future.

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in Maryland.

In Maryland, the constitutional amendment does not require the approval of the state’s governor, although Democratic Gov. Wes Moore has expressed support for it, along with other bills the General Assembly is pushing to protect abortion rights this year.

Another Maryland measure is designed to protect patients and providers from criminal, civil and administrative penalties associated with abortion bans or restrictions in other states.

A separate data privacy bill aims to protect reproductive health medical and insurance records in electronic health information exchanges that can be shared quickly and widely across state lines.

Another measure would provide Maryland public colleges and universities with planned student access to birth control, including emergency contraception and abortion pills.

Maryland lawmakers said the state is already seeing an increase in patients from other states. A new abortion provider is opening this year in western Maryland, across from heavily conservative West Virginia, where state lawmakers recently passed a near-total abortion ban.

The Maryland Women’s Health Center in Cumberland, about 5 miles from West Virginia, will open its doors in June to provide abortions to patients in central Appalachia, an “abortion desert” that regional clinic operators say.

Last year, Maryland lawmakers passed legislation on then-Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto expanded access to abortion by ending the restriction that only doctors could perform abortions and requiring most insurance plans to cover abortion care at no cost. The law empowered nurses, nurse midwives and physician assistants with abortion training.

In one of his first acts as governor, Moore announced in January that he was allocating $3.5 million to expand abortion training in the state. Hogan, a Republican, had refused to provide the money while in office.

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