Saying he believes "it's very important that Maryland remain a pro-choice state," Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke today pledged to campaign all summer in support of an abortion rights bill that will be on the ballot this November.
Mr. Schmoke said he will encourage voter registration, make personal appearances, mobilize his campaign workers and talk "to friends in the clergy who are conflicted on this matter."
Maryland's new abortion rights law would allow abortion without government interference until the point in a pregnancy when the fetus would be able to survive outside the womb. Later in a pregnancy, an abortion would be allowed to preserve the woman's health or if the fetus was defective.
The law would have taken effect last July 1, but opponents petitioned it to a referendum.
Mr. Schmoke said he expects "some really emotionally charged ads and probably even distorting messages on this matter," sponsored by the opponents of the law.
He said he is "very concerned about some of the tactics" he expects to see. "I think it's going to be very important for us, for me, to play a role in making sure we preserve the right for a woman to choose."
A referendum on an abortion rights measure last fall in Washington state won, but only after absentee ballots were counted. Mr. Schmoke said that experience has convinced him the abortion rights campaign will be equally difficult here.
"I think it's a pro-choice city and a pro-choice state, but so is the state of Washington, and it won out there by only a very narrow margin.
"I think the anti-choice advocates will probably have a tremendous amount of money to run ads that appeal to the emotions of people without presenting all sides of the case and I don't think the pro-choice people will have as much money to combat that kind of media campaign.
"I think it becomes important for political leaders to do some grass-roots work and get out the vote."
One of the state's leading abortion opponents, Steve Shaneman of the Family Protection Lobby, had no comment on the mayor's position or the mayor's belief that the campaign against the law will be well-financed.
"I don't know where he gets his information," Mr. Shaneman said.