Who's the pro-choice candidate in Maryland's gubernatorial election? Which candidate is most opposed to abortions?
Judging from their public comments and our discussions with Gov. William Donald Schaefer and William S. Shepard, there's plenty of difference between them. The next governor will play a pivotal role in determining the extent of legislative changes in this area.
Mr. Schaefer's Sept. 22 statement made it clear that he would take a pro-choice position, giving women the right to make these decisions themselves. He indicated that he would veto any restrictive abortion bill that might reach his desk and he would support repealing a harsh 1968 law that has been in abeyance since the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision affirmed abortion rights in far more liberal terms.
This contrasts with Mr. Shepard's statements in which the Republican nominee has come out in favor of abortions in limited circumstances: rape, incest, gross genetic deformity and when the life of the mother is in jeopardy. He also favors putting the zTC entire matter to a referendum vote. That same position has been taken by most conservative Republican candidates running for political office in Maryland this year.
Mr. Shepard's view puts him in the anti-abortion camp. While he notes that this is a "deeply personal issue," the Republican nominee is far less supportive of liberalized abortion language than Mr. Schaefer. In fact, his position is more restrictive than Maryland's current regulations on government-funded Medicaid abortions for poor women. He has yet to indicate if he would support repeal of the state's restrictive 1968 law.
Neither candidate has given specifics on what they would permit in any new legislation introduced next January. Would Mr. Schaefer or Mr. Shepard approve a bill incorporating the Supreme Court's Roe decision into the state's statutes? Would Mr. Schaefer or Mr. Shepard propose changes in Maryland's current regulations that limit Medicaid abortions? Voters are anxious to get some answers from the two nominees.
There is less than a month remaining in this campaign. Substantive discussion of issues by the candidates has been scarce. Mr. Schaefer and Mr. Shepard owe it to Marylanders to elaborate on their abortion views. We await their responses.