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Is Maryland a future abortion care destination?


A leaked draft of a Supreme Court ruling that would overturn the landmark 1973 abortion ruling, Roe v. Wade, unleashed blistering reactions Tuesday from abortion rights advocates and cheers from abortion rights opponents nationwide and in Maryland.

State Comptroller and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Peter Franchot called the court’s draft opinion a “travesty.”

“Abortion is health care. It's a woman's constitutional right to choose whether she wants to have an abortion or not,” Franchot said. “I consider it settled law. And it's very disruptive to, at this point, overturn decades of settled law.”

He and fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidate John King both said as governor, they would reintroduce an amendment to the state constitution guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion. A similar amendment passed the House of Delegates during the recently concluded General Assembly session but died in the Senate.

During a joint press conference with his running mate Michelle Siri, King said it would be at the top of their agenda if elected.

“A constitutional amendment would provide even stronger protection,” King said. “There was a proposal in the General Assembly this year to put that on the ballot. Unfortunately, that didn't move forward. But we would make that happen.”

State Senate President Bill Ferguson said in a statement Tuesday evening that the “right to a legal and safe abortion has existed in Maryland law since 1991 and was affirmed by voters in 1992.”

“To ensure that nothing can be done to diminish this right, the Maryland General Assembly took action to protect women and modernize reproductive care in the State,” he wrote, referring to the Abortion Care Access Act, which expands who can perform abortions in the state. He did not address, however, the Senate’s failure to act on the constitutional amendment.

Republican Gubernatorial hopeful Kelly Schulz’s campaign issued a statement that read in part, that she is personally “pro-life,” but that if she were governor nothing would change “with respect to current Maryland law on the issue.”

Maryland Right to Life responded to WYPR’s request for comment Tuesday evening with a statement that the organization is “hopeful” that the court’s decision “will return to the people and the state legislatures who represent them, their Constitutional authority to make law on abortion, and in doing so, restore the integrity of the Court.”

. Even if the high court overturns Roe v. Wade, Leslie Henry, a professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and expert on reproductive law, says the decision “would not have a significant effect on Marylanders seeking abortion.”

But, she added, it is not that simple.

. If nearby states severely restrict abortion or outlaw it, Maryland could become a destination state; one where people travel to obtain abortion care.

“That could affect Marylanders by decreasing the amount of access or at least the speed of access that is available now; it could take longer to get an appointment, it may be harder,” Henry said.

Diane Horvath, an OBGYN who provides abortion services in Baltimore County says the abortion care community has been preparing for this for decades.

“If this becomes the final decision for the court, it won't be something that we weren't expecting,” she said. “On the ground groups, and particularly organizations in states that have already had significant limitations on abortion access have been planning for this for years,” Horvath said.

Horvath says she was at the conference for the National Abortion Federation Monday night when word of the leaked opinion broke.

“It is devastating. And I want I don't want to minimize at all how bad this is. It's bad,” Horvath said.

The Supreme Court is expected to deliver its official ruling on Roe v. Wade before it adjourns for summer recess in late June.

Callan Tansill-Suddath is a State House Reporter for WYPR, where she covers the General Assembly.