The best that's possible


From the start, we have had deep concerns about the parental notification provision in the abortion-rights bill the Senate passed Tuesday. Although we most assuredly encourage the concept of teen-agers seeking advice from parents on an issue as serious as whether to carry a pregnancy to term, we maintain that a female who is old enough to decide to engage in behavior which results in pregnancy should have the right to decide to terminate that pregnancy as well.

This conflict haunts the abortion-rights bill that is now before the House. The anti-choice contingent has all but lost its political muscle; the real political contest now will be fought between the purists, who insist on a "clean" codification of Roe vs. Wade, and those who believe the Senate-passed bill is the best possible legislation that will ever emerge from the General Assembly.

This is one of those rare instances in which both sides are right. Any abortion-rights law must ensure access for young women. Nonetheless, it is clear that an abortion rights bill can only garner enough political support if it includes a notification provision. So the question is whether the requirement is broad enough to give teen-agers a real choice. Under the Senate bill, a minor would not have to notify a parent if her doctor determined that she was capable of giving informed consent, or if notification would not be in her best interest. That seems to be a wide enough loophole so that an enlightened medical community and an intensive public information campaign would in fact offer decision-making autonomy to those teen-agers who want or need it.

This is not an ideal bill from our perspective. But any amendments the House tacks on now will merely send the legislation back to the Senate, where President Mike Miller has vowed it will die. With the liberties Roe guarantees hanging by a tenuous judicial thread, we urge the House to pass this bill so Maryland can finally have on its books a law that protects the right of women to choose whether, and when, to have children.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad