Boergers urges Schaefer to lift abortion curbs

January 19, 1994|By Robert Timberg | Robert Timberg,Staff Writer

State Sen. Mary H. Boergers, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, urged Gov. William Donald Schaefer yesterday to reconsider his refusal to lift restrictions on Medicaid abortions for poor woman.

She also promised a Senate floor fight if the governor cannot be persuaded to change his mind, saying, "I just think enough is enough. . . . I feel very strongly that it's time."

Ms. Boergers said current law contains "a hypocritical double standard" that effectively denies abortions to some poor women even though Maryland voters in 1992 affirmed a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy.

At an Annapolis news conference, the Montgomery County legislator said, "The standard for low-income women ought to be the same" as for more affluent women.

Mr. Schaefer, in the budget he will unveil formally today, leaves intact restrictions on state funding of abortions. The conditions under which Medicaid will pay for them include cases of rape, incest, when the life of the mother is in danger or when a doctor RTC certifies that her physical or mental health is imperiled.

Abortion rights supporters reacted with varying degrees of enthusiasm to Ms. Boergers' pronouncement. Some cheered her on, while others questioned her timing.

"As a policy matter, we should not deny poor women the right to make this decision," said Del. Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat and a leading abortion rights advocate.

But he added that the governor's support was "crucial" to any attempt to change the law and warned that a losing battle on the issue would break the momentum of recent abortion rights victories.

Gloria Totten of the Maryland chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League applauded Ms. Boergers' stand but sounded a note of caution.

"We have not made a decision yet to launch a full-scale campaign" on the Medicaid abortion issue this session, she said, but she added that the league would be "prepared" to support Ms. Boergers or any other legislator who tried to change the governor's budget with floor amendments.

Kathleen Nieberding Ryan of the National Organization for Women's state affiliate said abortion rights advocates face an uphill battle in an election year but that her group is planning a major campaign.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, reacted coolly to Ms. Boergers' remarks, saying, "Absent the governor's support, I think it's a nonissue."

But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, said legislative efforts to strip the restrictions from the budget could succeed. "It could be one of those sleeper issues," he said.

Del. Timothy F. Maloney, a Prince George's Democrat and longtime opponent of abortion, said he did not think the legislature wants to take up abortion funding this session but that he did not begrudge Ms. Boergers her effort to make political points.

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