New Landscape for Abortion Rights

November 05, 1992

With the resounding approval of Maryland's abortion law, state voters have helped re-shape the national landscape for the abortion debate. And with the election of a Democratic president committed to abortion rights, as well as an larger contingent of pro-choice legislators in Congress, Americans have shown that they value reproductive freedom and will vote to protect it.

Question 6 was one of only two abortion ballot questions facing voters on Tuesday. The other was in Arizona, where voters turned down an initiative that would have outlawed all abortions other than those necessary to save the life of the mother.

Undoubtedly abortion opponents will continue to work in state capitals to impose legislative restrictions on abortions. But for Marylanders, the issue is settled and no one can argue that the decision was foisted on people by an impersonal, amoral government. As one legislator said, "I think we've put it to rest." No longer will the General Assembly face the bitter fights and recriminations over abortion of the past. The people have spoken: By a margin of nearly 400,000 votes, they have said they do not want government telling women whether or not to bear children.

The re-affirmed state law guarantees access to abortion in the early stages of pregnancy. It is a safety net for Maryland women. It ensures that if the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion, this state won't revert to a tough 1968 law that imposed restrictions such as requiring that women seeking abortions obtain permission from a hospital review committee. But the referendum victory in Maryland and the mandate handed to Bill Clinton opens other opportunities as well.

For 12 years, this country has been fixated on a debate about rolling back abortion rights. An anti-abortion litmus test has pervaded federal policies on issues ranging from aid for international family planning efforts to "gag rules" for domestic family planning programs to bans on fetal-tissue research and new drugs like RU-486, the French abortion pill.

We would hope that given the new political realities of this week's voting, the energy, time and money that has been spent on defending abortion rights can now be expended on efforts to provide the kind of services that will do away with the need for abortion.

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