Abortion referendum campaigns heat up Groups for and against Question 6 have raised more than $3 million

October 27, 1992|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Staff Writer

The two sides in Maryland's abortion-referendum battle have raised slightly more than $3 million for the fight, with supporters running about $150,000 ahead of opponents.

State finance reports filed yesterday show that the various groups supporting the law on the ballot next Tuesday have raised $1.6 million, while opponents have tallied more than $1.46 million, the overwhelming majority of it from church collections.

The law would allow abortion without government interference until the time in pregnancy when the fetus might be able to survive outside the womb.

Each side had predicted a costly fight over the measure, which was passed by the legislature in 1991 and petitioned to referendum by abortion opponents. With a week to go in the campaign, and expensive blocks of television commercials considered critical to the outcome, Maryland for Choice listed $319,000 in cash on hand as of Oct. 18. The Vote kNOw Coalition, organized to defeat the law, showed a cash balance of $230,175.

The reports show that Vote kNOw has outspent Maryland for Choice by a wide margin in media, mostly television commercials. Vote kNOw listed nearly $436,000 in media charges, while Maryland for Choice has spent nearly $273,000.

Maryland is the only state with an abortion-rights law up for referendum this year, and each side expected the other's accounts to show large contributions from out-of-state abortion campaign groups. But the reports filed yesterday, which cover donations received through Oct. 18, listed only occasional gifts from contributors outside Maryland or Washington.

Vote kNOw -- whose chairman, Richard J. Dowling, is also head of the Maryland Catholic Conference -- made a statewide appeal for church contributions in September, and the bid for funds paid off, the finance reports show.

Yesterday, Vote kNOw turned in a 2,935-page finance report listing the names of nearly 47,000 contributors. More than 2,500 of those pages detail donations from nearly 41,000 individuals received on a single day -- Monday, Sept. 14.

Vote kNOw collected in churches around the state Saturday, Sept. 12, and Sunday, Sept. 13. Ellen Curro, the head of the Vote kNOw Coalition, said the vast majority of those 41,000 Sept. 14 donations -- ranging from a couple of dollars to $100 and more -- came from the statewide church appeal.

In addition, the state Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men's organization, donated $225,000 to Vote kNOw, and the Maryland Catholic Conference contributed $10,000.

Maryland for Choice, the campaign group working for approval of the abortion law at the polls, alone raised $985,059 in cash. But other abortion-rights groups raising funds around the state transferred nearly $150,000 into Maryland for Choice accounts. The group also listed in-kind contributions -- such as personnel paid by other organizations -- of more than $205,000.

Other abortion-rights groups raised funds that they spent for their own campaign purposes, leading to the total of $1.6 million raised by the law's supporters.

Vote kNOw did not list any in-kind contributions or any transfers from anti-abortion groups.

Abortion opponents such as the Committee Against Radical Abortion Laws, which has been leaving photographs of dead fetuses on doors around the state, raised nearly $24,000, which it has been spending for its own campaign purposes.

MONEY

The issue on the November ballot is a law that would allow abortion without government interference until the time in pregnancy when a doctor says the fetus might be able to live outside the woman. Later in pregnancy, abortion would be allowed only if the woman's health or life is at risk or the fetus is grossly deformed. The law was passed by the General Assembly in 1991 but was blocked from taking effect when its opponents petitioned it to referendum.

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