Md. Senate OKs lifting caps on abortion funding

March 25, 1994|By Robert Timberg | Robert Timberg,Sun Staff Writer

By a resounding 30-17 margin, the Maryland Senate fell in step behind its female members yesterday and agreed to lift restrictions on state funding of abortions for poor women.

The restrictions, in one form or another, date back some 15 years. The state now pays for abortions only when a woman is the victim of rape or incest or faces serious physical or mental health problems by continuing the pregnancy.

An amendment allowing the use of state Medicaid funds to terminate pregnancies was tacked onto the Schaefer administration's welfare reform bill, which then received preliminary approval on a voice vote.

The measure is expected to come up tomorrow or Monday for a final Senate vote, and approval seems likely.

It then goes to the House of Delegates, where abortion rights advocates say they are optimistic about the bill's chances.

The sponsor of the amendment, Paula C. Hollinger, D-Baltimore County, said the state was "setting these women up for failure" if new work rules in the bill are imposed on welfare mothers without offering them abortion funding as well.

The bill would require selected recipients in Baltimore City, Anne Arundel and Prince George's County to go through job training, and they could lose benefits after 18 months unless they found employment or agreed to do community service work.

Seven of the Senate's 10 female members took the floor to support the Hollinger amendment, and all 10 women voted for it. "This gives us an opportunity to right a wrong," said Gloria Lawlah, a Prince George's Democrat.

But Southern Maryland Democrat James C. Simpson, the floor leader of the welfare bill, said the amendment would defeat the measure's purpose of fostering self-sufficiency. "You're making them reliant again on the government to take care of them," said Mr. Simpson, who opposes abortion.

In related action, the Senate went along with a controversial administration proposal for a statewide ban on additional welfare payments to mothers who have more children while on the welfare rolls.

An effort by Sen. John A. Pica Jr., a Baltimore Democrat, to kill the family cap on the contention that it punishes poor women and their children failed by a 15-29 vote.

The Maryland Catholic Conference reacted with dismay to the Senate's linking of what it called "unrestricted taxpayer funded abortions" to the family cap.

"In our view, the underlying message of that linkage is that if you are poor, society doesn't want you," said J. Kevin Appleby, a spokesman for the conference.

Despite protests from anti-abortion senators, the majority also made a change that some lawmakers said would deny opponents of the abortion funding the opportunity to petition it to referendum in the fall.

That amendment would require the state to spend $2.5 million on the welfare reform program. Under Maryland's law, no bill can be put on the ballot if it includes a budgetary appropriation.

The sponsor of that amendment, Baltimore Democrat Barbara A. Hoffman, called the impact on possible referendum efforts an unintended though fortuitous effect of the change.

Her modification, however, triggered an immediate request from Gov. William Donald Schaefer to Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. seeking an opinion on the constitutionality of the amendment.

Through an aide, the governor said he was concerned that rendering a measure immune to referendum was a bad precedent, no matter what the bill.

Despite personal reservations about abortion, the governor has supported a woman's right to decide whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. Since taking office in 1987, however, he has declined to strip the abortion funding restrictions from the annual state budget.

Abortion rights advocates called the Senate vote a significant victory.

ROLL CALL

The Maryland Senate yesterday approved an amendment to the governor's welfare bill that would lift the state's restrictions on Medicaid-financed abortions. Here's how senators voted on the amendment:

Voting Yea (30):

Baker, Walter M., D-Cecil

Blount, Clarence W., D-Baltimore

Boergers, Mary H., D-Montgomery

Boozer, F. Vernon, R-Baltimore County

Bromwell, Thomas L., D-Baltimore County

Della, George W. Jr., D-Baltimore

Denis, Howard A., R-Montgomery

Derr, John W., R-Frederick

Dorman, Arthur, D-Prince George's

Garrott, Idamae, D-Montgomery

Hoffman, Barbara A., D-Baltimore

Hollinger, Paula C., D-Baltimore County

Hughes, Ralph M., D-Baltimore

Irby, Nathan C. Jr., D-Baltimore

Lapides, Julian L., D-Baltimore

Lawlah, Gloria, D-Prince George's

Levitan, Laurence, D-Montgomery

Malkus, Frederick C. Jr., D-Dorchester

Miedusiewski, American Joe, D-Baltimore

Murphy, Nancy L., D-Baltimore County

Pica, John A. Jr., D-Baltimore

Piccinini, Janice, D-Baltimore County

Ruben, Ida G., D-Montgomery

Sher, Patricia R., D-Montgomery

Smelser, Charles H., D-Carroll

Tignor, Beatrice, D-Prince George's

Trotter, Decatur, D-Prince George's

Winegrad, Gerald W., D-Anne Arundel

Yeager, Thomas M., D-Howard

Young, Larry, D-Baltimore

Voting Nay (17):

Amoss, William H., D-Harford

Cade, John A., R-Anne Arundel

Collins, Michael J., D-Baltimore County

Fowler, C. Bernard, D-Calvert

Freeman, Habern, D-Harford

Green, Leo E., D-Prince George's

Hafer, John, R-Allegany

Haines, Larry E., R-Carroll

Jimeno, Philip, D-Anne Arundel

McCabe, Christopher, R-Howard

Miller, Mike, D-Prince George's

Munson, Donald F., R-Washington

O'Reilly, Thomas P., D-Prince George's

Simpson, James C., D-Charles

Stoltzfus, J. Lowell, R-Somerset

Stone, Norman R., D-Baltimore County

Wagner, Michael J., D-Anne Arundel

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