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Budget reflects focus on children

One learns to expect a certain amount of sniping in the free-for-all of partisan politics, but the blatant falsehood of one councilman's statement in a May 21 Sun article that "the county budget was not focused on children" went over the line.

County Executive John R. Leopold's budget reflects a strong commitment to health and human services for children. Using a combination of county and state-provided funding, the county offers a variety of services and initiatives to keep children safe and healthy.

The county Department of Social Services, for example, provides a safety net for children and their families through emergency assistance and shelter, protection from abuse and neglect, services for children in foster care, and family support services.

Other budget priorities of the administration include a middle school parenting program at Anne Arundel Community College, middle school resource officers funded in the police department budget and after-school programs such as Gems and Jewels in Annapolis, which is funded in the grants budget in the chief administrative officer account.

Children are also the focus of many Department of Health programs. With nurses in every public school, health clinics providing childhood vaccinations, dental and behavioral health services, and initiatives to reduce infant mortality, injuries, lead poisoning, and teen smoking, the Department of Health offers a broad array of programs aimed at keeping county children and adolescents healthy.

As these initiatives demonstrate, since taking office in December 2006, County Executive Leopold has consistently made children a high budgetary priority.

Dennis Callahan

The writer is chief administrative officer for Anne Arundel County.

Common ground on abortion issue

Few words can fuel the flames of passion like "abortion."

Opposing sides have battled for decades with little agreement, so as a freshman senator I resolved to meet with both pro-life and pro-choice organizations to seek areas of common concern.

As a state senator and father, I am deeply concerned that Maryland has the third-highest teenage abortion rate in America. Not withstanding the differing views on the right to choose, most, if not all, people would like to see fewer abortions.

Even U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, a leading women's rights advocate and presidential candidate, has stated that she wants to keep abortion legal, safe and rare. Statistics, however, sadly show that we are a long way from rare.

This session I introduced a bill entitled "The Teenage Protection Act" that proved to be politically challenging and expanded my firsthand knowledge of some powerful lobbyists in Annapolis.

This local bill would have required abortion providers in Anne Arundel County to offer teenage patients an option to view an ultrasound image. Ultrasound technology provides a window into the womb, and the personalized images enlighten women so that they can make an informed choice. This bill would neither mandate viewing nor slow down the process, but it would provide additional medical information, if the teenager so desired.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, can you imagine the kaleidoscope effect of an ultrasound picture portrayed to our teenagers? A recent survey found that a high percentage of women who were initially "strongly leaning" toward abortion decided to carry their pregnancies to term after seeing an ultrasound image.

In Annapolis, we heard conflicting testimony regarding whether all abortion clinics were offering these medical options to every patient. However, it should be noted that facilities would not be adversely affected, unless they withheld readily available medical information from their patients.

Many states are now proactively protecting women's rights with similar legislation. Most recently, Ohio lawmakers enacted a similar bill this year unopposed by both Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, because they stated that they were already providing the optional medical information. Unfortunately, local lobbyists strangely used the same reasoning to lobby against and kill Maryland's Teenage Protection bill.

Whether it is a teenager contemplating an abortion, a middle-aged adult battling cancer or a senior citizen dealing with heart problems, everyone should have the right to view their own medical information.

As caring citizens and legislators, we have an obligation to reach out to those who are struggling and being denied their rights. Of course, the easiest path would be to ignore the situation and the alarming statistics; however, easy is not always right.

Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire

The writer is a Republican representing District 31 in Northern Anne Arundel County.

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