Bill on drug to prevent pregnancy defeated


A Senate committee killed legislation yesterday to allow women to get the so-called morning-after pill from pharmacists without having to see a doctor, one day after the measure won approval from the House of Delegates.

The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee voted 6-5 to defeat the emergency contraception measure, which would have set regulations governing how women could get access to drugs used to prevent pregnancy.

Proponents said the legislation would decrease the number of abortions performed in the state, while some opponents worried it would encourage young women to be promiscuous. Other critics said it was unsafe to allow pharmacists to dispense the drugs without knowing a woman's full medical history.

"The case was never made why the doctor should be taken out of the equation," said Sen. Richard F. Colburn, an Eastern Shore Republican who voted against the bill in committee. "The legislation was an end-around around the doctor. I don't believe the pharmacist should have the responsibility."

Senator encouraged

Sen. Sharon M. Grosfeld, the bill's sponsor, said she was disappointed by her committee's vote. "It's a shame," the Montgomery County Democrat said. "It's a really important piece of legislation and a bill that would have prevented a lot of abortions."

Still, she was encouraged by the response to the new legislation, which passed with the minimum number of votes needed in the House.

"What's heartening is how far it got in its first year," she said. "One vote short - that's not bad. Baby steps."

Notification bill dropped

Meanwhile, a Senate bill to make it more difficult to bypass the state's parental notification laws to get an abortion was withdrawn by its sponsor.

The move means that abortion opponents seem to have failed in their primary goal for the year.

With a new Republican governor, anti-abortion lawmakers had decided to concentrate their efforts on parental notification legislation. The House version of the bill also appears to be dead.

While Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. considers himself to be a supporter of abortion rights, many abortion activists question his right to wear that label, saying some of his votes as a congressman hindered the ability of a woman to end her pregnancy.

Ehrlich will apparently not have to decide whether to sign any abortion-related legislation this year.

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