Abortion opponents hope to persuade a majority of Maryland voters that Question 6, the abortion measure on Tuesday's ballot, is a "bad law." That argument avoids the real question -- if the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade, should abortion remain accessible in Maryland? We believe a vote against Question 6 is a vote for returning to a 1968 law that truly qualifies as "bad."
That pre-Roe measure was considered liberal because it legalized abortion in cases where a pregnancy could be considered a threat to the woman's mental health. But that "loophole" still forced women to jump through some formidable hoops before obtaining a safe abortion.
Abortions back then could be performed only in hospitals -- with the approval of a hospital review committee. This made the procedure both expensive and difficult. Cost alone kept safe abortions out of reach of many women. Moreover, the delays created by the review process compounded the risks and the trauma.
Each hospital set up its own procedures, meaning the availability of abortion varied from hospital to hospital. Many institutions took a strict approach. Some even required a woman to sign herself into a psychiatric ward to prove the pregnancy threatened her mental health. That added more dollars to the fee -- and more emotional trauma.
Back in 1968, Blue Cross would not pay abortion bills for an unmarried woman. Abortion was not accessible to all women. Many Marylanders resorted to illegal abortions. Three years after the law was passed and two years before the Supreme Court threw out restrictive abortion statutes, many women still traveled to New York or Washington, D.C., where abortions were cheaper and where they were less likely to face delays.
Those who are truly interested in protecting women should remember the law on the ballot requires stricter regulation of abortion clinics than currently exists. And Question 6 gives the state an enforceable parental notification requirement -- something it does not now have.
We urge Maryland voters to preserve access to safe and legal abortions by casting their ballots FOR Question 6 next Tuesday.