State lawmaker influencing health care plan


The date of a fund-raiser for Howard County Councilwoma Shane Pendergrass was incorrectly reported yesterday in The Political Game column.

The event is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 26.

The Sun regrets the errors.

For Del. Salima Siler Marriott of Baltimore, the politics of health care reform is coming down to a choice of wording.

She applauds much of the Clinton administration's health care reform proposal, though she would prefer more attention to cervical and breast cancer screening for poor and African-American women.

She has been a soldier in the continuing struggle for civil rights, a community organizer, a professor of social work and mental health at Morgan State University and an advocate for the health concerns of poor women. She says her position as a member of the Maryland legislature gives her a standing that is greater than that afforded by her other roles as activist and academic. She feels she is in a position to help shape national health care policy.

Ms. Marriott is a member of the National Black Women's Health Project and the National Caucus of Black Legislators. And she recently coordinated a health care forum in Washington for the Rainbow Coalition.

After an African-American health care summit in Washington, after grueling debate on the abortion issue, the summit's final position paper still did not include sufficient language on abortion, she says. Here's where words come in: Should the new health care plan speak of abortion, family planning, reproductive services or pregnancy-related care?

Something direct and assertive is crucial, she says.

But she is trying to cope with groups that would choose no language at all. At one point, she rushed to New York to meet with leaders of a black doctors' group that wanted to skirt the question.

"They said abortion would be covered in the fine print," she says.

She insisted that they reconsider, but doesn't yet know if she will prevail. "We can't come in the back door, not when the right-wing religious groups are saying they would derail the whole program on this issue alone."

While other women's groups work for freedom of choice, the National Black Women's Health Project wants to keep the focus on abortion coverage for the poor. Otherwise, she said, freedom is there only for those who can afford it.

The issue is a delicate one because the reforms themselves are so important for poor women. African-American women in particular have been disproportionate victims of some illnesses because they have not taken advantage of preventive care, including free mammograms and Pap smears.

"Free screening is worthless if you don't have insurance," she says. "If you don't have insurance, maybe you don't want to know if you have these diseases."

The price of aspirations

If it's the fall before an election year, it must be fund-raisinseason. You can sometimes tell by the dollar figures what the hopefuls are hoping for: re-election, moving up or keeping their most expensive options wide open.

Del. Kevin Kelly, D-Allegany, will hold his usual $10 evening at the Elks Lodge in Cumberland tomorrow night. Mr. Kelly's compassionately priced event has re-election written all over it.

MA Sen. Beatrice Tignor, a Democratic candidate for county execu

tive in Prince George's, invites the faithful to join her tomorrow evening at Martin's Crosswinds. Is a countywide race more expensive than a Senate contest? The ticket structure -- $125, $250 or $500 -- says, Yes, indeed.

On the same night, Sen. Bill Amoss, D-Harford, meets his constituents at the Level Fire House in Havre de Grace. The $35-a-ticket price says he likes being a senator.

Howard County Council Chair Shane Pendergrass, pondering a race for the House of Delegates, will have a two-tier event on Monday, with $100 and $50 tickets depending upon your tier, at the Gould Home-Overlook Farm in Laurel.

Backers of Del. John Astle, D-Anne Arundel, will surrender $250 for an evening aboard the "Providence" at Annapolis Landing Marina on Saturday. It will cost the same sum to meet and greet Sen. Larry Levitan, D-Montgomery, on Oct. 25. Options wide open here.

Del. Richard LaVay, R-Montgomery, wants Mr. Levitan's seat. He is inviting supporters to tee up with him at Montgomery Village Golf Course, at fees of $100 and $400, with a bull roast to follow.

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