Incumbents feel brunt of voters stirred by abortion, local issues Senate gain foreseen for abortion rights

September 13, 1990|By Sandy Banisky


Though they won four big victories in Tuesday's primaries, abortion-rights activists say they'll have to survive November's general election before they can declare the Senate filibuster-proof on the abortion issue.

Abortion-rights groups need 32 votes -- two-thirds of the Senate -- to cut off extended debate like the eight-day filibuster that led to the death of an abortion-rights bill last March. In that parliamentary battle, sponsors of the abortion bill fell one vote shy of breaking the filibuster and forcing a vote on their bill.

Yesterday, activists said they could count at least 32 abortion-rights candidates nominated. But some of those candidates face anti-abortion opponents in November.

Not until then will either side in the abortion debate be able to tote up its net losses or gains.

"The work is not finished," said Karyn Strickler, the head of the Maryland affiliate of the National Abortion Rights Action League.

"We're raising money already" to support abortion-rights candidates in the November elections, said Steven Rivelis, chairman of Choice PAC. "People can see that the power of a buck made the difference."

James Guest, head of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, said hundreds of volunteers will continue calling abortion-rights voters through Election Day to encourage them to go to the polls.

Meanwhile, on the day after the primary, Gov. William Donald Schaefer promised he'd present his position paper on abortion "next week."

"It is not an easy issue ... it is a difficult, emotional issue," the governor said.

But he repeated, as he insisted throughout the campaign, that abortion is mostly of interest to reporters. After he releases his paper, he asked reporters yesterday, "what in the name of pete will you guys ask?"

Tuesday, supporters of abortion rights picked up four new Senate allies -- if they win in November: Janice Piccinini in Baltimore County; Delegate Mary Boergers and Delegate Patricia Sher in Montgomery County; and Delegate Gloria Lawlah in Prince George's. All four defeated incumbents who supported the filibuster.

But abortion-rights groups potentially lost a vote as Sen. Sharon W. Hornberger was defeated in her bid for the Republican nomination in Carroll County to Larry E. Haines, who opposes abortion.

They lost another vote when Sen. Catherine I. Riley, D-Harford, who favors keeping abortion available, chose not to run for re-election. Habern W. Freeman Jr., the Harford County Executive who takes a more conservative stand on abortion, won the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat Tuesday.

In Senator Hornberger's Carroll County district, Ms. Strickler said she expects that J. Jeffrey Griffith, who favors abortion rights and won the Democratic Senate nomination, will attract money and volunteers from groups that favor protecting the right to abortion.

Ms. Strickler and Mr. Rivelis said they would be analyzing the contests and endorsing candidates soon in an effort to strengthen their numbers.

Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, D-Baltimore, one of the sponsors of the Senate bill blocked by the filibuster, said she counts a net gain of two abortion-rights senators.

"But I don't think that's the issue. I think we're beyond filibusters," she said.

Tuesday's election "was a plebiscite on abortion statewide," Senator Hoffman said. "It's clear where the public is. That ought to be enough of an indication to most of us that filibustering is not a worthwhile activity.

"I don't think anybody would have the stomach for a filibuster," Senator Hofffman said.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, agreed, saying he is determined not to preside over a repeat of last year's anti-abortion stalling tactics on an abortion bill.

"It's time," Mr. Miller said. "It was time for an abortion-rights bill last year. It's a bill that deserves a great deal of study. It's a bill that deserves a great deal of debate. But it's a bill that deserves action.

"I intend to make certain, if I'm elected president of the Senate again, that the matter is brought to a vote on the floor of the Senate," he said.

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