Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot is asking officials to review whether the state’s pension system has investments in Alabama, which just enacted a law that bans almost all abortions.
Franchot, a Democrat, noted in a Facebook post on Thursday that he can’t control Alabama lawmakers “who choose to weaponize their system of laws to punish women who are already experiencing great vulnerability.”
“However,” he continued, “I can work to ensure that Maryland’s taxpayer dollars are not used to subsidize extremism.”
Franchot serves as vice chairman of the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System. He said he’ll ask the pension system’s managers to review any assets that the state has in Alabama and whether it works with any investment managers or brokers that have offices there.
He also will ask the retirement system not to send any employees or trustees to Alabama for any meetings or conferences.
Michael Golden, a spokesman for the pension system, said the agency’s leaders have not been contacted by Franchot about his request.
Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, declined through a spokesman to comment. Hogan appoints half of the members of the pension system’s board of trustees.
In an interview, Franchot said he was inspired to act after news coverage of Alabama’s new law.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill into law Wednesday that effectively bans abortions in that state.
”I looked more closely at the legislation and it’s a particularly egregious example of extremism,” Franchot said. “The people of Alabama can chose their leaders, and their leaders can do whatever Alabama wants to do, but we don’t have to sustain it with Maryland taxpayer investments.”
Franchot said he might also ask the staff of the state Board of Public Works to research any other state investments and business relationships in Alabama. The Board of Public Works oversees a wide range of state contracts. It is composed of the comptroller, governor and state treasurer.
Franchot said he thinks that Alabama politicians might “listen to money” and reconsider their position if investors abandon the state.
Alabama is the latest state to pass laws further restricting access to abortions. Bills restricting abortions have also been passed or are moving forward in Missouri, Louisiana, Utah, Wisconsin, Ohio and Georgia, among others.
In a statement, Ivey said Alabama’s law “stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.”
Ivey, a Republican, acknowledged that the law might be unenforceable, given the longstanding Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade legalizing the medical procedure.
Many believe that the Alabama law, or one of the laws from another state, will make its way to the Supreme Court. Supporters hope Roe v. Wade could be overturned.
Some states have gone in the opposite direction, passing laws to ensure access to abortions.
In Maryland, the late House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch introduced a bill this year calling for an amendment to the Maryland Constitution establishing “that the people have the right to bodily integrity and privacy to make personal decisions about childbearing and procreation without unwarranted government intrusion.” Had the bill passed, the constitutional amendment would have gone to voters for approval or rejection on the 2020 ballot.
Adrienne Jones, Maryland's new speaker, said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press that she will "most likely" push to protect abortion rights in the state's constitution next year, as her predecessor sought to do this year.
Jones, who is the first black woman in the state's history to win the speaker's office, noted news reports about the Alabama law when asked whether she would sponsor a constitutional amendment in Maryland.
"I was looking at the coverage, and it was all men in terms of pushing this, and neither one of them has ever given birth to a child or has been in that situation," the Baltimore County Democrat told the news service.