WASHINGTON. — There are a few things Marylanders should know about the abortion bill their legislature has just passed.
Naturally, advocates of unborn children's right to life will oppose the bill and favor overturning it by referendum. But others as well may be so inclined: advocates of freedom of conscience, supporters of genuine parental notification, those who favor a meaningful term limitation to abortion -- and others who just don't like being lied to, even if they don't fit into any of those other groups.
The bill is deceptive. Let us look at two glaring misstatements.
It is said to impose a term limitation, so that gruesome late abortions will be illegal. But it doesn't. The apparent ban has a ''health of the mother'' exception, with no specification of physical health. A mental-health rationale will suffice for the exception, and bitter experience shows that a mere statement by the abortion-seeker that she will be really bummed out is she TTC can't have the abortion suffices to activate the ''mental health'' exception.
This was a standard tactic for evading pro-life laws before Roe v. Wade. Some college health facilities had a psychiatrist on staff for the specific purpose of certifying ''mental health'' exceptions for abortion-seeking students. In California, then-Governor Reagan thought he was signing a very moderate bill, only to discover that, because of the broad ''health'' exception, he had unwittingly signed off on abortion on demand.
The bill is said to have a parental-notification requirement. But it doesn't. The statute's apparent requirement can be circumvented by the abortionist himself. There is no need even for a judge. The only requirement is that the abortionist certify that the patient is sufficiently ''mature.'' The bill does not define ''mature,'' and there are no means of assuring the good faith of the abortionist in making the determination -- one in which he has an obvious financial stake.
Most parental-notification statutes are weakened by a judicial bypass. This is a new trick; an abortionist bypass.
Finally, the bill repeals the ''conscience clause'' which up until now has protected the right of pro-life medical professionals to refrain from offering abortion-related services. Failure to offer such services could lead to civil penalties or disciplinary measures. This bill could force pro-life medical professionals to choose between implicating themselves in an act that they believe to be murder, or changing their professions or leaving the state.
The best that can be said about this part of the bill is that it contains no deception: The violation of freedom of conscience is brutally obvious.
In fact, this is the most dangerous precedent in the bill. It takes a long first step toward placing pro-life opinions outside the pale of legal protection, and thus, in a literal sense, ''outlawing'' them.
If a majority of the people of Maryland really want abortion to be legal in their state, it will be difficult to say them nay, short of raising their consciousness about unborn babies. But most Marylanders probably do not want to conduct this societal debate by outlawing opposing opinions; they probably do not want de facto legal abortion throughout all nine months; they probably do want real parental notification, and they will probably resent the sheer deception practiced on them in parts of this bill.
Gary L. Bauer, former domestic-policy advisor to President Reagan, is president of the Family Research Council, a research and advocacy organization.