Hours after President Bush signed his debut executive order yesterday reinstating the so-called "global gag rule" regarding abortion, Gov. Parris N. Glendening urged a group of abortion rights activists to stay vigilant in the face of the new administration.
Both Bush's order, which denies funding to international groups that use their own money to support abortion, and last night's pro-abortion rights rally at the State House coincided with the 28th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in the United States.
"We have got to be on guard now more than ever. ...We have to make the public understand what is at stake here," Glendening told the crowd of about 70 people, who carried signs reading "Roe v. Bush.com" and chanting, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, John Ashcroft's got to go!"
"This is about the most powerful man in the most powerful nation in the world restricting women's right to choose," said Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
In recent years, bills seeking to limit abortion rights in Maryland have failed; some have not even made it out of committee.
Abortion rights activists say Bush's election has given them reason to worry. Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that a Nebraska ban on late-term abortions was unconstitutional, if Bush nominates anti-abortion justices, that decision could be overturned, allowing states to institute such bans.
"Bush is setting a tone for anti-choice legislation, so I expect that any legislator who is anti-choice will put something in this year," said Jessica Morgan, president of the Baltimore chapter of the National Organization for Women.
Sen. Alex X. Mooney, a Frederick County Republican, said Bush gave him hope. "As a pro-life legislator, it certainly is encouraging and inspiring," he said.
Mooney is one of a handful of lawmakers who plans to reintroduce previously unsuccessful legislation. Mooney said he would push for a budget amendment to strip abortion coverage from the Medicaid program.
Sen. J. Robert Hooper, a Harford County Republican, will sponsor a bill requiring abortion providers to notify the parents of minor girls who want the procedure.
The legislature also might see a bill to ban late-term abortions, and a measure requiring all abortions performed in Maryland to be reported to a central state agency.
Although supporters of abortion rights are confident most Marylanders agree with their cause, they are operating under the principle that one can never be too careful. "I don't see much happening," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat. "Without a change in membership, things will probably stay the same, but you never know what changes people's minds."
Anti-abortion lawmakers, could find several bills to oppose, such as legislation requiring more hospitals to offer rape victims "emergency contraception," a high dose of birth control that can prevent pregnancy.
Other Democratic legislators plan to introduce legislation requiring an 8-foot zone around women entering abortion clinics, so they cannot be harassed by anti-abortion protesters.
10 a.m. Senate meets, Senate chamber.
10 a.m. House of Delegates meets, House chamber.
11 a.m. Senate Budget & Taxation and House Appropriations committees, briefing on the governor's budget proposal, Joint Hearing Room, Legislative Services Building.