A SIGNATURE CAMPAIGN — aimed at blocking Maryland's controversial abortion law from taking effect -- has ensured that the state's citizens will decide the issuethemselves in the 1992 general election.
The state abortion measure, passed by the 1991 General Assembly and signed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer on Feb. 18, allows unlimited access to an abortion until the fetus is capable of survival outside the womb.
A parental notification clause for minors is included.
Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, and Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore -- who stood on opposite sides of the abortionbattle in the General Assembly -- said they were glad the issue is before the voters.
"The voters are now going to make the decision, as well they should," said LaMotte, who co-sponsored the measure in the House of Delegates.
Haines, who said he feels the law is too liberal, agreed, saying, "I think it needs to come before the voting citizens of Maryland for them to make a decision."
Of the 142,992 signatures gathered by the Vote kNOw Coalition, 2,552 were from Carrollresidents; 2,278 were verified by the county Board of Elections, said Gail Carter, election registrar.
The anti-abortion coalition's slogan, reflected in the name, is "If you know, you'll vote no."
Atthe suggestion of the state Attorney General's Office, local election boards stopped checking signatures when they verified 53,998 names -- well in excess of the 33,373 needed to bring the issue to referendum.
"In the beginning, I was pleasantly surprised that the response was so overwhelming," said Stanley Dill, petition organizer for Carroll and Frederick counties. "But after I saw the enthusiasm, I knew we were going to get enough."
Both pro- and anti-abortion forces claim that they are championing women's rights and say they are confident that Maryland's voters will ratify their view.
"I think it's necessary (for the measure to go to referendum)," said Pat Fisher, a county anti-abortion activist. "The bill itself is a bad bill. It has a lot of loopholes for the abortionists."
Marion Conboy, a member of the Carroll County chapter of the National Organization of Women, agreed that the bill is vague, but said she felt women will support it.
"We are hoping that women will unite now that their feet are being held to the fire," she said. "Women need to wake up and stop saying, 'My vote doesn't count.'
"Our rights are being taken away," Conboy said. "They aren't ground in stone."
Fisher said the bill actually endangers women.
"If the women in the Maryland NOW think this is justice to women, I don't know what they are fighting for," saidFisher. "This allows women to be opened up to several things which are dangerous for them."
Fisher and other opponents of the law saidabortion facilities are unregulated and women have no legal recourseif they are injured as a result of the procedure.
However, Dr. Janet W. Neslen, Carroll's health officer, disagreed, saying that only licensed physicians can legally perform abortions and all women have the right to sue for malpractice.
Patients also have redress through state and local medical societies, as with any medical procedure, she said.
The parental notification debate hinged on whether a young woman was mature enough to decide if she wanted an abortion.
Those opposed to the measure said a doctor would coerce women to have abortions for his own financial gain, while those supporting the measure said only the woman can decide if she's mature enough to have an abortion.
"If a child is so immature that her parents must be told,is she mature enough to be a parent?" asked Wyn Morin, a member of CCNOW.