ANNAPOLIS — Following his finest hour in nine years as a legislator, Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte strode into a popular nightspot here Monday night to the rousing applause of abortion-rights advocates, many of whom hadworked with him for six months on abortion legislation.
But it was a patron at Fran O'Brien's restaurant who had never met LaMotte who provided the Democrat from Carroll and Baltimore counties with one of the most memorable and touching moments of his public life.
"She came up to me and said she recognized me as a pro-choice leader," said LaMotte. "She said she wanted to thank me and she shook myhand. That was super. It made me feel real good."
LaMotte has worked with abortion-rights groups since last August, as one of two delegates who took leadership roles in sponsoring abortion-rights legislation and generating support in the House. His efforts came to fruition Monday, when the House passed, 84-52, a Senate bill protecting the right to an abortion after several days of debate and attempts by abortion opponents to amend the legislation.
"The responsibility of shepherding this bill through the House has been really awesome," saidLaMotte Tuesday morning. "I feel like a 10,000-pound weight has beenlifted from my shoulders. I feel relieved. But now that some time has passed, I'm starting to feel joy.
"An issue of this magnitude and importance is relatively rare. It's been a real honor to have been leading the charge and winning," said LaMotte, who saved pens used bythe governor and speaker of the house to sign the bill into law in aceremony Monday.
Carroll's three other House members -- Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, and Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard -- voted against the bill.
Last week, Sen.Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, voted for the bill, while Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, voted against it.The Senate passed the bill, 29-18.
The bill allows abortions until a fetus might be viable outside the womb. Later in pregnancy, an abortion will be allowed only "to protect the life or health" of the woman or if the fetus is "affected by genetic defect or serious deformity."
It also includes a provision requiring physicians to notify parents of minors seeking abortions unless they determine the girl is "mature and capable" of giving consent or notification would not be in her "best interest."
"Maryland has set the standard for the nation," said LaMotte.
The bill's detractors said that standard is tooliberal and makes access to abortion too easy.
Elliot said he objects to the bill because it doesn't address the rights of the unborn,has a weak notification provision that can be exploited, allows physicians too much discretion in determining whether a fetus is "viable"and contains few restrictions.
LaMotte said the bill simply codifies into state law the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, adding that the state law is more restrictive because of the notification provision.