As the General Assembly prepares to debate a woman's right to abortion, the majority of Anne Arundel's state lawmakers say they favor some restrictions.
Even many of the county's legislators who have embraced abortion rights express reservations about a movement to pass a"clean" codification of Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortions nationwide.
A group of 14 senators -- led by Clarence Blount, D-Baltimore, and Vernon Boozer, R-Baltimore -- introduced legislation late Thursday that would preserve abortion without restrictions such as parental notification for minors.
The bill would allow a woman to choose abortion until a medical doctor rules the fetus has become "viable," or able to live outside the womb, said Pat Riviere, a lobbyist for the state chapter of the National Organization for Women. Even then the bill would allow abortions when childbirth would threaten the mother's health or life, she said.
Although most county lawmakers had not yet seen the legislation Friday, they cited a host of concerns about the bill, particularly the absence of any requirement for minors to notify parents before undergoing an abortion.
"While we were campaigning (for election last fall), most of us heard that people want to keep abortion legal and safe," said Delegate Marsha G. Perry, D-Crofton. "But they want some restrictions."
The Anne Arundel delegation isdecidedly anti-abortion. Only five of the county's 18 lawmakers saidthey favored abortion rights during last year's debates and the fallcampaigns. They are Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad, D-Annapolis, and Delegates W. Ray Huff, D-Pasadena; Aris T. Allen, R-Annapolis, Michael Busch, D-Annapolis, and John Astle, D-Annapolis.
"(As a man) never in my life will I ever go to have that procedure performed on myself," Astle said. "In some respects, I'm not sure I can determine what the proper circumstances for an abortion ought to be."
But Astle and Winegrad said they may prefer tighter restrictions after the fetus is viable. And Huff said he could support parental notice.
Allowing the doctor who would perform an abortion to determine when a fetus is viable "introduces quite a gray area," said Astle. "I'll want some more clarification on that part," he said.
"I'm not necessarily swallowing the whole bill," said Winegrad, noting that he supported amendments last year that would have restricted abortions when a mother's health, rather than her life, was threatened. "My votes have always been pro-choice in the past, but, after viability, I have some serious problems."
"I'm having a hard time doing away with parental notification or a judge's consent or something," Huff said. "If they can't talk to their parents, they should tell somebody they have faith in. . . . It's too big a step to take without talking to somebody who really knows them."
Sen. John A. Cade, R-Severna Park, a leader amongsenators who is seeking additional restrictions, said parental notice is important, but it's not the main issue.
"Whether parents are able to help or prevent an abortion depends on their relationship with their child," Cade said. "At least, they ought to know what's goingon."
The main issue, Cade said, is the bill would allow "abortionon demand. There are no restrictions."
He objected to its depiction as a codification of Roe vs. Wade. "I'd consider a codification ofRoe vs. Wade," said Cade, the Senate minority leader. "Roe vs. Wade allows reasonable restrictions."
In any case, legislators say theyhope to avoid repeating last year's filibuster which stalled the General Assembly for eight days.