New abortion law in effect with clinics little changed

December 04, 1992|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Staff Writer

An article yesterday on Maryland's new abortion la incorrectly explained one of the exceptions under which a doctor may perform an abortion on a minor without notifying a parent. A doctor does not have to inform a parent if the physician believes that notification would not be in the girl's best interests.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Maryland's new abortion law takes effect today, but women entering clinics won't find a great deal has changed.

The law, approved by referendum last month, was enacted to keep most abortions here legal even if the U.S. Supreme Court should overturn Roe vs. Wade, its 1973 decision that guaranteed the right to abortion.

Because the Maryland statute was meant simply to continue current practices -- allowing abortion without restriction until the fetus might be viable outside the womb -- clinic operators say, significant changes won't have to be made in how they deal with their patients.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

At Planned Parenthood of Maryland, which performed nearly 2,000 abortions last year, Linda Geeson said the agency will keep new records for teen-age patients. Until now, clinics were not required to tell a parent before a teen-ager had an abortion, though most clinics say they voluntarily tried to involve parents in most cases.

Ms. Geeson said girls are encouraged to bring a parent with them. If the girl won't do that, Planned Parenthood will send a registered letter to the mother or father. The law, however, allows an abortion without parental notice if a doctor believes that the girl might be abused by a parent, that she is mature enough to make her own decision or that abortion is in her "best interests." In such cases, Planned Parenthood will have the doctor sign a form explaining why a parent is not being told.

At the Gynecare Center in Pasadena, a spokeswoman said that "records were always kept for teen-agers." And parents who accompany their daughters sign consent forms, she said.

A girl who insists that a parent should not be told "has to write in her own words why she thinks her parents shouldn't know. And she has to sign a form that says she's aware that if there's a medical emergency her parent will be notified."

A Baltimore Women's Medical Center spokeswoman also said that "we've always had parental notice" -- though the law until today did not require it.

She said the agency will not have to make any changes to meet the new law's requirements.

The new law also repeals a requirement that women be handed a state brochure listing alternatives to abortion. Ms. Geeson said that Planned Parenthood has written its own brochure that it will give each patient. The leaflet will include information on social services agencies, day-care providers and medical-assistance programs.

Until now, the state has not regulated abortion clinics, though doctors are licensed.

The new law, however, allows the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to write regulations, and agency officials say they are beginning the process.

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