Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch is withdrawing his legislation to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution, his chief of staff said Saturday.
Alexandra M. Hughes, the top aide to Busch, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, said the speaker realizes the legislation cannot pass both chambers of the State House this year, so he plans to reintroduce the measure in 2020.
“Speaker Busch has been firmly committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose for decades,” Hughes said. “Given the current national climate, the change in the makeup of the Supreme Court and the alarming increase in anti-choice legislation introduced in Maryland, the speaker continues to believe it is important to protect this right in Maryland’s constitution.”
Abortion rights opponents say it would be a waste of time and effort to pass a constitutional amendment affirming the right to an abortion in Maryland. In a practical sense, they have a point. But the symbolic value of such a step would be high.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Calvert County Democrat, has said for months that he doesn’t expect any proposed constitutional amendments — such as abortion rights or legalized marijuana — to pass this year because it’s the Senate’s tradition for ballot measures to be considered in the year they go before voters. The next statewide election is in 2020.
“We take up constitutional amendments the year they go on the ballot,” Miller said in an interview with The Sun published in January.
“While his constitutional amendment would have overwhelmingly passed the House of Delegates, he is choosing to withdraw his legislation and wait until next year to move forward when the Senate is more prepared to act,” Hughes said of Busch’s decision to wait a year.
Women’s abortion rights have been firmly protected under Maryland law since voters in 1992 decisively passed a referendum question protecting freedoms gained under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. However, that referendum did not write that decision into the state’s Constitution, where it would be more difficult to dislodge.
The 1992 vote essentially moved the abortion issue to the margins of Maryland Democratic politics for more than 25 years. But new concerns have arisen among Maryland abortion rights advocates since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy and President Donald Trump’s appointment of U.S. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanagh to the high court.