ANNAPOLIS — Alice Chambers didn't come here Monday night to scream militantly, wave inflammatory placards or display political buttons. She made the 60-mile trek from Westminster to participate in the Maryland March for Choice simply to make a statement by her presence.
"I'm here because I believe so strongly in this cause," said Chambers, 50, at an abortion rights rally at the State House. "This is at the heart of what America stands for -- the right to make a private decision. If this istaken away, we've nicked away at a basic American freedom."
A small contingent from Carroll made the journey, joining about 1,500 abortion rights activists in the mile march and rally in supportof several bills to be considered by the legislature this week. Among the group were Win Morin, 55, of Sykesville, and Wendy Wilson, 23, of Westminster, members of the Carroll chapter of the National Organization for Women.
The message from the speakers and the crowd was clear: Enact a "clean codification" of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, which legalized abortion, and reject any clauses requiring minors to obtain parental consent.
Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore, sponsored a House bill introduced Mondaythat seeks to codify the tenets of the Supreme Court's decision intoMaryland law. An identical bill has been introduced in the Senate. He also is sponsoring a measure requiring minors having abortions to receive counseling.
Senate anti-abortion leaders have submitted bills restricting abortion except under extreme circumstances and preventing physicians from performing abortions on minors without parental consent.
Senate abortion rights advocates, in an attempt to gain broader support, have sponsored a bill requiring physicians to notify the parents of an unmarried minor having an abortion unless they believe that the minor is "mature and capable of giving informed consent," or that notification would not be in the minor's "best interest."
Any compromise of the legal status and accessibility of abortion, even for teen-agers, is unacceptable, said county residents.
"I'm glad they have a 'clean' bill," said Chambers, an archivist at WesternMaryland College, who attended with her 23-year-old daughter, Lisa. "Anybody who wanted anything but a clean bill wouldn't be down here. Only people who feel their civil rights are being threatened come down. People here aren't half-hearted."
Any departure from the Roe vs. Wade law would be "a step backward," said Lisa.
Westminster resident Dominae Leveille, 27, made the trip to show that "there are Carroll County people who support pro-choice." She criticized attempts toplace conditions, such as a parental notification clause, on abortion rights.
"It will cause more of a problem than solve it," she said. "It will lead to back-alley abortions. The people who can communicate with their parents, will. For whatever reason, other parents aren't there, or they're abusive."
Anna Haggert, 26, a Taneytown social worker, said a parental-notification requirement would, in essence,be a punishment and make teen-agers who are unable to comply feel like criminals.
LaMotte said it's hard to predict how the myriad abortion-related bills will be molded by the House and Senate into a final package, but spoke against parental notification Monday.
"I come before you not only as a legislator but as a father of two daughters, one a teen-ager," he said. "And I'll be damned if I'm going to letthe government take control of their bodies away. That's what it's all about."
LaMotte reminded the crowd that if an abortion rights bill passes, it probably will appear as a referendum on the 1992 ballot.
"That's why we need you to keep at it," he said. "We need you to be out on the streets and knocking on doors so we can make a statement to the entire nation that Maryland is the true 'Free State.' "
Abortion rights advocates fear the Supreme Court could overturn or dilute its 1973 decision. Leveille said she's concerned that abolishing the right to an abortion could set a precedent for eroding other rights in the future.
"We need to allow people to make decisions based on their own convictions," she said. "If people believe they can'thave an abortion, I would not impose anything on them. I want the same."
Several in the county contingent said they are as patriotic and supportive of life and family as abortion opponents, who, they said, often tend to claim those virtues as their own.
"We're just as patriotic," said Alice Chambers. "It's just that anti-choice people are so blinded by religious beliefs, they can't see the other side."