Abortion regulation bills face tight votes

General Assembly

March 11, 2004|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Proposals to license and regulate clinics that perform abortions are facing tight committee votes in the Maryland Senate, with the decisions hanging on Howard County Republican Sandra B. Schrader, who has been viewed as a moderate on the issue.

After a hearing on the legislation yesterday, Schrader said she examines each abortion-related issue on its merits rather than taking an all pro-abortion rightsposition or an all anti-abortion stance.

"To me it's not a black-and-white issue," Schrader said. "I find in life there's a lot of gray."

Robin Shaivitz, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, said her vote count shows that Schrader could determine whether the bills make it to the Senate floor. Planned Parenthood is opposing both measures, arguing that existing state and federal regulations ensure that abortions are safe and that the bills would serve only to limit women's access to abortion services.

Supporters of the bills want clinics performing abortions to operate under the same licensing requirements as other outpatient medical facilities. Abortion-rights advocates say such regulation is designed to limit access to abortion facilities.

One bill, sponsored by Sen. Janet Greenip, an Anne Arundel County Republican, would require the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to regulate abortion providers, including those who use an "instrument, medicine, drug, or other substance to terminate the pregnancy." The legislation also would require the department to regulate licensed health professionals who refer at least 10 clients a year to a doctor for abortions, health officials said.

A second measure, sponsored by Sen. Andrew P. Harris, a Baltimore County Republican, is less stringent. Harris' bill focuses on the licensing of clinics that perform abortions.

Schrader said Greenip's bill was "too complicated," and that she was undecided on the Harris legislation.

Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, chairwoman of the Senate Education, Health and Environment Committee, said she does not support either measure because abortions already are safe.

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