Abortions once required review, doctors recall

Two doctors who recall the days when women had to seek a hospital review board's approval before an abortion yesterday endorsed Question 6, the new abortion law set for referendum Nov. 3.

At a news conference called by Maryland for Choice, Dr. Harrold Elberfeld, an obstetrician and gynecologist, and Dr. Chester Schmidt, a psychiatrist, said the system was humiliating to women who already were upset by an unwanted pregnancy.


Hospital review boards were required under a 1968 Maryland abortion law that has been unconstitutional since 1973. The law, which is still on the books, would be repealed if Question 6 is approved by voters.

Question 6 would guarantee the right to abortion until the time in pregnancy when the fetus might be able to live outside the womb.


The 1968 law allowed abortions only in hospitals after approval by a review board and only if the woman's life or health was in danger, if the pregnancy was the result of a reported rape or if the fetus was severely deformed.

"It's wrong that this law remains on the books in 1992," said Dr. Schmidt, who used to evaluate the mental health of women seeking abortions before review boards.

Dr. Elberfeld said the review boards varied from hospital to hospital. At one Baltimore hospital that approved of abortion, the review board routinely OK'd requests, he said. At another a few blocks away, many were refused.

Dr. Schmidt said psychiatric evaluations were not required by law, but many women went to a psychiatrist in hopes the doctor's opinion would strengthen their cases before a review board. "I was sympathetic to the needs of those women, and I did what I could to help," he said.