50 doctors announce opposition to Question 6

October 26, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

Citing "health care concerns," some 50 Maryland doctors voiced their opposition yesterday to Question 6, the state's new abortion law set for referendum next Nov. 3.

The physicians, speaking at a news conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the Inner Harbor, described the abortion law as "bad medicine" because, among other things, it would fail to protect the "health and safety" of women seeking abortions.

"Question 6 clearly oversteps the bounds of standard accepted medical practice," said Dr. Paul Rivas, an internist from Phoenix in Baltimore County. "In fact, this bill does nothing more than legalize the back alley. . . . We urge the people of Maryland to vote against Question 6."

Other doctors have supported the law.

The intent of the law up for referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot is to protect the right to abortion in Maryland in the event the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1973 decision -- Roe vs. Wade -- which found a constitutional protection for the right to have an abortion.

The lack of control over the abortion industry was the most damaging aspect of Question 6, doctors said. They said the law would allow unqualified physicians, such as psychiatrists, to perform abortions and that it also would exempt clinics from mandatory health regulations.

"As physicians who practice quite frequently in hospital settings, we have come to expect rigorous credentialing procedures, ongoing proof of competency and continuing education. No such standards are set by this law," Dr. Rivas said.

In the past three years, three women have died in Maryland abortion clinics and another was permanently injured, said Dr. William Colliton Jr., a retired obstetrician and gynecologist from Silver Spring. The law's lack of regulation, he said, would lead to more injuries and death.

The doctors, who said they represented about 250 colleagues across the state, also opposed the law because of a "parent jTC notification loophole."

"It is unacceptable that the physician performing the abortion should be able to bypass parental notification through a vague and unprecedented method of assessing maturity level," Dr. Rivas said. "In most cases, the abortionist does not even meet the patient until she is on the procedure table."

The law would require a doctor to notify a parent before a minor has an abortion unless the doctor concluded that telling a parent would not be in the girl's best interest or that notification might lead to emotional or physical abuse.

"Using that argument, teachers wouldn't tell parents about students' bad grades in school," said Dr. David Otto, a Catonsville pediatrician.

Proponents have argued that parental notification with a physician's bypass strikes a balance between the interests of parents and the health and well-being of minors.

The doctors' opposition to the legislation kicked off a series of events sponsored by the Vote kNOw Coalition of Maryland Inc., which is leading the campaign against Question 6.

A rally and fund-raiser, featuring Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey and Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, were held last night at the Turf Valley Hotel Country Club in Ellicott City.

Frederica Mathewes-Green, a spokeswoman for the coalition, said the news conference came about after doctors began phoning the organization to express their frustrations with the law.

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