As expected, the Maryland elections board has now certified enough petitions to assure that the abortion issue will be on the Maryland ballot in November 1992. Both anti-abortion and pro-choice forces are gearing for a mammoth and costly campaign, which is odd since the decision before the voters comes down to one hard, clean question: Do you, or do you not, favor maintaining the presently existing right of a woman to secure a safe and legal abortion? We are confident that when the chips are down, Maryland voters, regardless of their personal opinion on the abortion issue, will ratify the abortion law adopted by their representatives in the General Assembly in January.
The vote comes none too soon, because the U.S. Supreme Court, packed by Ronald Reagan and George Bush for a decade, now seems poised to overturn the landmark 1973 abortion-rights case known as Roe vs. Wade. Unfortunately, if that reversal comes to pass, every state will face the same political turmoil that Maryland endured over the past two years. Some will no doubt adopt liberal abortion laws; many, as Utah and Louisiana have done in recent months, will adopt the most stringent limitations on abortion, perhaps even outlawing it altogether.
If that happens, the nation in effect will have adopted a means test for a basic right: If a woman can pay the cost of a plane ticket, she can get a safe, legal abortion; if she can't, she can either get a dangerous illegal abortion, or she can have a baby she does not want and perhaps cannot support -- even a baby conceived through rape or incest.
If Roe vs. Wade is overturned, it may be many years before the Supreme Court once more declares access to safe and legal abortions to be a fundamental right. In the meantime, the right must be protected in Maryland by a vote to ratify the state's new abortion-rights law.