ANNAPOLIS -- A bill aimed at protecting the right to abortion glided through the Maryland Senate without a word of debate yesterday, and House leaders said they would not tamper with the measure for fear of endangering its passage.
The bill, which won final Senate approval, 29-18, without a word of debate, is scheduled for a vote in the House Environmental Matters Committee today.
House leaders of the abortion-rights forces had considered pressing to strip the bill of a clause that would require a doctor to notify a parent, in most cases, before a minor has an abortion.
But yesterday, after consulting abortion-rights organizations, the delegates decided to drop that fight. Instead, they say, their task is to fend off any amendments and push for speedy enactment of the measure.
Should the House make the slightest change in the bill, the amended measure would have to be sent back to the Senate for another vote -- a politically risky situation.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, has warned that the Senate has fully debated the bill and will not take up the issue again this year.
The measure, which abortion opponents say is one of the most liberal in the nation, would allow abortion without government interference until the time in pregnancy when the fetus might be able to survive outside the womb.
The bill's backers say it merely repeals an unconstitutional 1968 statute, writing into law the standards that have been followed in Maryland since the Supreme Court guaranteed the right to abortion in 1973.
Mr. Miller said the bill would not have passed the Senate without the parental-notice clause.
"I don't want to dictate terms to the House, especially on this issue," he said. But if the clause is removed from the bill, Senate support for the measure would fade, he said.
House abortion-rights leaders oppose the provision, saying that girls who are afraid to notify their parents might seek dangerous illegal abortions.
But they are taking Mr. Miller's warning very seriously. And yesterday they decided to back the Senate version.
"We think the best way to preserve a woman's right to choose is the Senate bill," said Delegate Samuel I. Rosenberg, D-Baltimore.
Not all abortion-rights delegates agreed.
Delegate Peter Franchot, D-Montgomery, said the House leaders the bill had given up the parental-notice fight too soon. And over the objections of most of his colleagues, he said he would push for an amendment that would remove the provision.
Leaders of the abortion-rights delegates called Mr. Franchot's strategy foolhardy.
"We want to make sure abortion is safe and legal in this state," said Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll. "This bill will do that."
Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, D-Baltimore, one of the Senate's abortion-rights leaders, said she has been lobbying delegates not to change the measure.
"It looked easy, but it wasn't," Senator Hoffman said after the vote.
If the House should send an amended bill back to the Senate, "that would be the end of it," she said. "It's not a game of bluff."
Bebe Verdery, Planned Parenthood lobbyist, had been among those who opposed the parental-notice clause. But yesterday she said a coalition of groups agreed with Delegates LaMotte and Rosenberg to back the Senate bill.
"The vast majority believe there's too big a risk of losing the bill to amend the Senate version," she said.
"This is a strong pro-choice bill," Ms. Verdery said. "There's just one part we don't like."
Opponents of abortion say they are lobbying for their House allies to add restrictions to the bill. If that fails, they said, they will consider trying to defeat the bill at referendum in 1992.
"No matter how many amendments you put on it, you can't make it a good bill," said Steve Shaneman of the Family Protection Lobby, which opposes abortion.
Last year, anti-abortion senators stalled a similar bill with an eight-day-long filibuster that killed the measure.
Senate votes on abortion bill
The bill approved by the Senate yesterday would allow abortion without government interference until the time in pregnancy when the fetus might be able to survive outside the womb. Abortion later in pregnancy would be allowed only to save the life or health of the woman or if the fetus is deformed. The final vote was:
Amoss, William H., D-Harford
Bromwell, Thomas L., D-Baltimore County
Cade, John A., R-Anne Arundel
Collins, Michael J., D-Baltimore County
Fowler, Bernie, D-Calvert
Freeman, Habern W., D-Harford, 34th
Green, Leo E., D-Prince George's
Hafer, John J., R-Allegany, 1st
Haines, Larry E., R-Carroll, 5th
Jimeno, Philip, D-Anne Arundel
McCabe, Christopher J., D-Howard, 14
Miedusiewski, American Joe, D-Baltimore, 46th
Munson, Donald F., R-Washington
O'Reilly, Thomas P., D-Prince Georges
Riley, Lewis R., R-Wicomico
Simpson, James C., D-Charles
Stone, Norman R., D-Baltimore County
Wagner, Michael J., D-Anne Arundel
Baker, Walter M., D-Cecil
Blount, Clarence W., D-Baltimore
Boergers, Mary H., D-Montgomery
Boozer, F. Vernon, R-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
Miller, Thomas V. Mike Jr., D-Prince George's
Malkus, Frederick C. Jr., D-Dorchester
Murphy, Nancy L., D-Baltimore County
Pica, John A. Jr., D-Baltimore
Piccinini, Janice, D-Baltimore County, 10th
Ruben, Ida G., D-Montgomery
Sher, Patricia R., D-Montgomery
Smelser, Charles H., D-Carroll
Trotter, Decatur W., D-Prince George's
Winegrad, Gerald W., D-Anne Arundel
Wynn, Albert R., D-Prince George's
Yeager, Thomas M., D-Howard
Young, Larry, D-Baltimore