After hours of testimony, Anne Arundel County Council quickly votes down abortion resolution

Chase Cook
Contact Reporterccook@capgaznews.com

Testimony on Anne Arundel County Council chairman Michael Peroutka’s abortion resolution started at about 9:35 p.m. Tuesday and ended four hours later.

But it took council members about 30 seconds to cast their votes on the resolution. The council defeated the resolution 4-3 early Wednesday morning after passionate testimony from anti-abortion and abortion rights advocates.

After an amendment removed health department reporting, Peroutka’s resolution would have recognized “preborn” children as human and deserving of humane treatment and protection.

While the council can’t make laws changing abortion — and a resolution really is just the council’s opinion — Peroutka said it was an important to recognize the humanity of “preborn” children at the local.

“Every baby that dies, dies locally,” Peroutka said before public testimony began.

In the end it was Councilman John Grasso, R-Glen Burnie, who cast the deciding vote. The other councilmen voted along party lines. Democrats Andrew Pruski, D-Gambrills; Chris Trumbauer, D-Annapolis and Pete Smith, D-Severn, voted against the resolution.

Grasso did not comment right before his vote. He did ask the 200 people in the audience to forgo their testimony if they felt their sentiments had been echoed by another resident. A few people decided not to speak, but in the end more than 70 people testified.

Testimony from both sides was passionate. Peroutka asked audience members not to clap or cheer, but they did anyway. The vote prompted a huge cheer from abortion rights advocates.

Opponents to the resolution said it was an attack on a woman’s right to choose. They admonished Peroutka for backing legislation they viewed as government interference between a woman and her doctor.

One of those speakers was Senate District 33 candidate Eve Hurwitz. The Democrat is facing Republican state Sen. Ed Reilly in November.

Hurwitz detailed her personal abortion story in which she terminated a pregnancy after she asked her partner to use a condom and he did not.

The resolution gives “more rights and respect to zygotes and embryos than women” and implies that women are solely at fault for becoming pregnant, she said.

“What happened to me — and what happens to millions of women in America and around the world — amounted to reproductive rape, or reproductive coercion,” Hurwitz said. “I had never consented to being impregnated. In fact, I specifically and repeatedly asked not to be.”

Supporters of the resolution condemned abortion as a practice that murders children. Many of the supporters invoked God as their reason for opposing abortion. Others said the resolution could go further, but appreciated Peroutka’s attempts to have a local debate on the issue.

After the resolution’s defeat, some anti-abortion advocates milled around and talked with Peroutka. One of them sighed and said “we fought the culture of death,” what more could be done.

Most of Tuesday’s testimony was civil, with a few outbursts from both groups. One anti-abortion rights advocate prompted outrage from the crowd when he asked the council to consider counting “preborn” children as 3/5th a person, alluding to the time that America counted black slaves as 3/5th a person.

In other business

The abortion resolution was just one of several items on the council’s agenda Tuesday.

Here is a breakdown of other actions:

  • The Council passed legislation that allowed smaller properties to keep miniature pigs. The bill passed 6-1 with Fink voting against it.
  • A bill increasing police access to massage businesses was held after constitutional concerns were raised. Also some massage business owners accused Smith’s bill of unfairly targeting their businesses. Smith said he put the bill forward to combat prostitution and human trafficking.
  • The Council amended a bill that would change development rules for plasma centers, transitional houses and state-licensed clinics. The amendment expanded the distance between those sites. Amended bills are voted on at the next meeting. The Council asked county workers to give them a map showing the affect of the distance requirements for the businesses. Smith and Grasso sponsored the bill, saying they are trying to guide those businesses away from their district. They said there are enough of those businesses in their districts.
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