Suit filed over abortion referendum Ballot wording unfair and misleading, coalition of law's opponents charge.

July 29, 1992|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Staff Writer Staff Writer Joe Nawrozki contributed to this story.

ANNAPOLIS -- Contending that proposed ballot language is "unfair and misleading" the coalition leading the drive to defeat a new abortion law at referendum filed suit in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court today in an effort to change the wording.

"Not only does the language color the public perception, but, come November, it will confuse voters," said Ellen Curro, president of the Vote kNOw Coalition of Maryland.

Jay Schwartz, the group's attorney, said he is hoping for a quick circuit court hearing and expects the debate to be settled in the Maryland Court of Appeals before the end of August. Final wording must be sent to local election boards by Aug. 25, according to the Maryland Attorney General's office.

The suit was not a surprise. Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., Secretary of State Winfield M. Kelly Jr. and Gov. William Donald Schaefer had certified the ballot language as early as possible to allow time for a court challenge to be settled before the ballot deadline.

The bill on the November ballot was passed by the Maryland legislature in 1991 in an effort to keep most abortions here legal. Aware of the sensitivity of the issue, Mr. Curran's office twice drafted proposed language and asked groups on both sides of the issue for comment.

A third version of the bill uses "politically charged and psychologically charged words" and "generic" words to disguise the intent of the new law, Ms. Curro said.

Mr. Schwartz said the ballot wording must "fairly, concisely and intelligently describe in understandable language" the text of the law.

Proponents of the measure said they expected the law's opponents to mount a court challenge. "We're not 100 percent satisfied with the language either," said Stacie Spector, campaign chairwoman of Maryland For Choice.

"Each side would have liked to have written the language itself. But we couldn't do that. Now's the time to take the language and go off to educate our voters," Ms. Spector said. "It seems like whenever there's a compromise they want to pick up their marbles and go home."

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