ANNAPOLIS -- A Senate committee approved a bill yesterday that would keep most abortions legal in Maryland but also would require -- over the objections of many abortion-rights groups -- that a parent be notified before a minor has an abortion.
The 7-4 vote, in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, sets up a Senate debate on abortion likely to begin tomorrow.
L Neither side is predicting a swift end to the deliberations.
Activists say the bill will be attacked on two fronts. Opponents of abortion said they will try to add restrictions to the bill on the Senate floor. Abortion-rights advocates vowed to keep fighting the parental-notice clause, which they believe will force girls to seek illegal abortions or delay getting medical help.
The advocates said they would work to have the provision stripped from the bill in the House and, if that fails, take the parental-notice clause to referendum.
An amendment added yesterday would allow separate sections
of the bill to go before the voters.
"I'm disappointed," Karen Ringen of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington said after the committee vote. "We tried every step of the way to get a clean bill passed."
The bill approved yesterday would allow abortion without government interference until the time in pregnancy when the fetus might be able to survive outside the womb.
Later in pregnancy, abortion would be allowed only to save the health or life of the woman, or if the fetus were deformed.
The only abortion law now on Maryland's books is a 1968 measure that has not been enforced since the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, which guaranteed the right to abortion.
Supporters of abortion rights believe it is crucial to enact a new law here in case the Supreme Court should repeal the Roe decision.
Last year, an abortion-rights bill that easily passed the same committee became mired in an anti-abortion filibuster.
This year, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, wants to avoid such a spectacle and has predicted Senate passage of an abortion-rights measure -- so long as it contains a parental-notice provision.
But opponents of abortion are not ruling out a replay of last year's eight-day filibuster.
"It is not out of the realm of possibility," said Pat Kelly, lobbyist for the Maryland Catholic Conference.
Karyn Strickler,, head of the Maryland affiliate of the National Abortion Rights Action League, said her group is turning its hopes to the House.
House abortion-rights leaders -- Delegates Lawrence A. LaMotte, Carroll, and Samuel I. Rosenberg, D-Baltimore -- had hoped to persuade the Senate committee to adopt a more liberal version of the parental-notice clause. But the deal fell through late Monday.
Mr. LaMotte would not discuss the issue, except to say, "We thought we had an agreement, and we regret the Senate did not include those changes we had sought."
But a State House source, who asked not to be named, said last night that the senators and delegates "had a handshake" deal until Mr. Miller refused to go along.
The source said the agreement would have required a doctor to inform a parent if a girl seeking an abortion was under 16.
Opponents of abortion have vowed to put any abortion-rights measure on the 1992 ballot, saying they, too, are confident of victory.
The following is the roll call of votes cast by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on abortion rights legislation:
Sen. Janice Piccinini, D-Baltimore County
Sen. Howard A. Denis, R-Montgomery
Sen. Mary Boergers, D-Montgomery
Sen. Walter M. Baker, D-Cecil
Sen. Frederick C. Malkus, D-Dorchester
Sen. Ralph M. Hughes, D-Baltimore
Sen. John A. Pica Jr., D-Baltimore
Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington
Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., D-Baltimore County
Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Anne Arundel
Sen. Habern W. Freeman Jr., D-Harford