With the surprise support of two staunch abortion-rights lawmakers, a moderate pro-choice bill made it out of a committee and is expected to be brought before the Maryland Senate by the end of the week.
The bill, which would require that in most cases parents be notified when their teen-agers seek abortions, passed the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee by a 7-4 vote yesterday.
The bill had the backing of Senate leadership and survived its first crucial vote of the session largely because two senators -- one a veteran lawmaker from Montgomery County and the other a freshman from Baltimore County -- gave it qualified support.
Although he said it is "the height of folly to mandate family communications," Sen. Howard A. Denis, R-Montgomery, voted in favor of the bill that requires parental notification.
Denis and Sen. Janice Piccinini, D-Balto. Co., said they gave reluctant support of the measure even though they preferred a non-notification abortion-rights bill that failed a 2-9 committee vote.
"I didn't get the bill I wanted," said Denis, "but I got a good bill."
Piccinini campaigned last fall on a strong pro-choice platform. She recently told abortion-rights demonstrators in Annapolis that she opposed notification but she voted for the moderate bill because she did not want to be "an obstructionist."
Abortion-rights lobbyists, who supported a more liberal bill, said yesterday's vote was only a temporary setback. They are fighting to write into Maryland law the largely unrestricted guidelines already practiced under the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision.
"We are never going to support a bill with notification on it," said Karen Ringen, a spokeswoman with Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington. She said her task now is to see that the notification bill passed out of the committee is not weakened by anti-abortion amendments when it comes before the entire Senate body.
Anti-abortion lawmakers in the Senate are expected to attack the moderate bill quickly and a spirited debate is likely, possibly beginning by the end of the week.