New lobbying group joins the campaign for abortion rights

January 20, 1991|By Sandy Banisky

In hopes of winning passage this year of a bill that would keep most abortions legal, another abortion rights group has decided to join the legislative lobbying campaign in Annapolis.

Choice PAC, a political action committee organized last spring to raise funds for candidates who support legal abortion, is forming a lobbying arm called Choice Committee to help press for approval of an abortion rights bill. Choice Committee will become a member of Marylanders for the Right to Choose, a coalition of about 100 groups.

Choice PAC raised about $40,000 for candidates in last year's legislative campaigns. With a joint House-Senate hearing on abortion bills scheduled for Jan. 31, and debate on the issue rising, the group voted last week to send its president, Steven Rivelis, to join the lobbying effort.

"I think the more people we have down there the better," said Bebe Verdery, lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Maryland, another member of Marylanders for the Right to Choose.

Senate opponents of abortion have not yet filed any bills that would restrict abortion but are expected to do so before the Jan. 31 hearing. Opponents have generally chosen to work quietly and not discuss their strategies in advance of the fight.

So far, two abortion-rights bills have been introduced into the Maryland House and two into Senate, where an eight-day anti-abortion filibuster last year led to the death of a bill that would have guaranteed the right to abortion.

In the Senate, most of the advocate groups support a bill sponsored by Sen. F. Vernon Boozer, R-Baltimore County, that would allow abortion without government interference until the time in pregnancy when the fetus could survive outside the womb.

Mr. Rivelis said that Choice Committee will join in backing that measure. "It's not going to put up any barriers to access to services. It's going to keep abortion available to all women regardless of age and economic status. It's simple."

But Senate leaders, including President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, are backing a bill that includes a provision requiring doctors to notify a parent before allowing abortion for minors.

Abortion rights groups such as Planned Parenthood and the Maryland affiliate of the National Abortion Rights Action League have vowed to work for the defeat of the Senate leadership bill. They say that restrictions on abortion for minors might prompt girls to seek illegal abortions.

Some sympathetic legislators say the advocates' staunch opposition to a parental-notice clause is not politically realistic. The sponsors of the bill believe that an abortion rights measure including a parental-notice clause has the best chance of passage and could help stave off another filibuster.

"It is not an easy subject," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, D-Baltimore, a Senate abortion rights leader. She said she is pragmatic enough to know that the measure "is necessary to get the bill out of the Senate and necessary to pass the bill at referendum. I'm not willing to say that if we can't make it perfect we won't change it at all."

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