ANNAPOLIS -- Setting up a repeat legislative struggle over the emotional issue of abortion, abortion opponents in the Senate introduced legislation last night that would prohibit abortions for birth control or sex selection and would otherwise restrict when the procedure could be performed in Maryland.
The bill, introduced by Sen. John A. Cade, R-Anne Arundel, would permit abortions only if the life or physical health of the mother were endangered, in cases of rape or incest, or if it was determined the unborn child would probably be severely deformed or handicapped if carried to term.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer said last year that he would veto any legislation that increased restrictions on abortion.
Mr. Cade said two other bills backed by abortion opponents would be introduced this week.
One would require parental consent before a minor could obtain an abortion, except under certain circumstances.
The other would require the "informed consent" of any woman, regardless of age, before an abortion could be performed. In addition, the bill would stipulate minimum standards and reporting requirements for clinics where abortions are performed.
Taken together, the measures are almost identical to legislation senators who oppose abortion introduced last year, Mr. Cade said.
But Senator Cade said that it was premature to say whether this year's abortion fight would result in a filibuster like the one that paralyzed the Senate for eight days during the 1990 session.
"It's too early to anticipate anything by way of strategy of tactics," he said. The bills, he added, represent "an attempt to strike a balance between the competing interests of the unborn child and the pregnant mother."
Senators who think Maryland should guarantee women a broader right to abortions in case the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturns or modifies the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortions have introduced two bills. Those bills would allow abortions without government interference until the time in pregnancy when the fetus could survive outside the womb.
One of the bills, backed by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, and other Senate leaders, also includes a requirement that doctors notify the parents of unmarried minors before performing an abortion under certain circumstances.
At a State House news conference yesterday morning, Mr. Schaefer said he would support legislative efforts to require minors "under certain circumstances" to obtain parental consent before undergoing abortions.
"Under certain circumstances, parental consent, I think, is a good thing. Now what they are -- that's as far as I want to go right now," he said. When asked if he meant to say "parental notification" rather than "parental consent," he retreated from the topic entirely, admitting the abortion topic "is still a very difficult issue for me."
"Notice, consent. I'm not going to go any further," he replied. "You can probe as much as you want, put me on the stand, [but] that's as far as I'm going to go because I want to see what the bill says."
The governor acknowledged that he had met with legislators recently to discuss the "parental consent" issue but said he "just listened."
Last September, after avoiding the issue for months, Mr. Schaefer said he supported laws that would keep abortion widely available, although he said he was personally opposed to most abortions.
"As a matter of public policy, I will not sign any legislation that restricts the ability of women to make their own personal decisions in this matter as long as I am governor," Mr. Schaefer said at the time.