Five things to know about abortion access in Maryland with Roe v. Wade threatened

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The draft opinion leaked this week from the chambers of the U.S. Supreme Court, which revealed a majority of the justices favored overturning Roe v. Wade, sparked plenty of questions, even in states like Maryland, where the right to an abortion is in state law.

Here are five things to know about where things stand in Maryland:


Abortion is protected by law in Maryland

For nearly 20 years after the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the only abortion law on the books in Maryland was a 1968 provision rendered moot by Roe. It mandated that the procedure take place only in hospitals and if a review board determined the mother’s health was at risk.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that Maryland legislators sought to solidify in state law the right to an abortion. That way, if the Supreme Court overturned Roe, the state wouldn’t revert to its 1968 law.


An initial attempt in 1990 floundered after an eight-day filibuster by anti-abortion lawmakers in the state Senate. But a second try in 1991 was able to “glide” through the General Assembly, according to a Baltimore Sun article from the era. Gov. William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat, signed the bill into law within a half-hour.

Still, anti-abortion activists kept up their fight, accruing enough signatures to put the matter up for a referendum in 1992.

The battle came as the Supreme Court was considering a case some feared would deal a significant blow to Roe: Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. But in reviewing a Pennsylvania law that placed restrictions on abortion, the high court determined that laws that placed an “undue burden” on patients seeking abortions were unconstitutional. And, shortly thereafter, Marylanders voted handily to protect abortion before fetal viability through state law.

Over the years, legislators have weighed adding the right to the Maryland Constitution to prevent changes by future legislators, but efforts never gained traction.

The Maryland legislature adjusted abortion law this year

This year, with Roe facing its greatest threat yet at the hands of the conservative majority controlling the Supreme Court, legislators in Maryland went back to the drawing board.

In an effort to expand Maryland’s capacity to provide abortions, they opted to allow clinicians who are not doctors perform the procedure, and mandated that insurance companies cover the procedure without co-payments unless they can cite a religious or legal exemption.

Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, vetoed the measure, arguing that allowing physician assistants, midwives and nurse practitioners to perform the procedure “endangers the health and lives of women.” The legislature overrode the veto, meaning the law will take effect July 1.

But the political battle over the law was reignited this week. Following the release of the Supreme Court’s draft on Roe, the Maryland law’s proponents called on Hogan to release $3.5 million for a training program for new abortion providers. The training program was included in the new law, but legislators had to start the funding with next year’s budget, said Del. Ariana Kelly, a Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the bill. Releasing the money any earlier would be up to Hogan.


Despite pleas from Democrats like Comptroller Peter Franchot, who is running for governor, Hogan has made clear he will not release the funds, arguing that “suddenly releasing taxpayer dollars” for training would “run counter to [his] concerns about setting back the standards for women’s health.”

Providers preparing for a possible influx of patients from out of state

All the while, abortion clinics in Maryland have been preparing for a potential influx of patients from out of state.

For them, the Supreme Court’s decision was hardly a surprise, particularly after the justices allowed a Texas law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy to stand by avoiding ruling on its constitutionality. That law placed enforcement in the hands of civilians, who could sue anyone who aided an abortion-seeker, rather than in the hands of the state.

Now, the Supreme Court seems poised to issue a decision that would overturn both Roe and Casey. As a result, more states could restrict abortion. About a dozen states, including Tennessee and Kentucky, have “trigger laws” that would outlaw the procedure in the case of a Roe reversal from the high court, except in cases where pregnancy puts the mother’s health at risk. Several others, including Maryland neighbor West Virginia, are likely to restrict the procedure in Roe’s absence, according to The New York Times.

So, abortion providers in Maryland — some of them already accustomed to seeing a trickle of patients from distant states like Texas — are working to train non-physicians to provide abortions in absence of the state-funded programming, and to increase the availability of virtual appointments, wherein doctors could prescribe abortion medication to Maryland residents to help open up more in-person appointments for travelers.

Finding a clinic near you

Melissa Grant, co-founder and chief operations officer for carafem, which runs an abortion clinic in Chevy Chase and several others nationally, said her organization recommends people use sites such as and to locate their closest clinic.


“We’re getting calls from all over the U.S. already,” Grant said. “Sometimes, part of the work that we do in helping to navigate an appointment is to say: ‘We’d love to help you’ and ‘Are you certain that we’re the most effective choice for you or is there somebody closer?’”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group that supports abortion rights, some 71% of Maryland counties, particularly the more rural counties, did not have an abortion clinic as of 2017. About 29% of Maryland women live in those counties.

Legislators are hoping the new law will decrease those numbers by making more health care facilities without physicians available to perform the procedure, Kelly said.

“If we have people who are providing women’s health care and reproductive health care who are nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurse midwives, then they’re going to be able to provide abortion care in their clinical office spaces on the Eastern Shore and in other rural areas of the state,” she said.

Maryland organizations accepting donations

When abortion-rights supporters ask Kyle Bukowski, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of Maryland, how they can help, his answer is simple: “Vote.”

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“We expect that this draft is going to be very similar to the final product that is released, likely in June. And that means that every state legislative battle will be deeply important to maintain reproductive access,” he said.


He also recommends donating to abortion providers like Planned Parenthood of Maryland and local abortion funds, which help patients cover the costs of their procedures, and aid them with transportation, accommodations and translation services, if needed.

Within a day of news about the Supreme Court’s draft opinion, the Baltimore Abortion Fund had received 350 donations, a “notable increase” from the norm, said Lynn McCann, director of development and communications for the group. The group was also getting increased interest from potential volunteers, she said.

The fund encourages those who want to help to arrange for ongoing financial donations rather than a single contribution, McCann said.

“We’ve absolutely seen an increase in support, which is fantastic,” McCann said. “A lot of people have reached out either by making a donation or have reached out asking how they can help.”

Bukowski said he also advises people to speak openly about abortion with family members and friends who may not support it.

“I’m sure there’s a person in your life who has had an abortion and likely benefited from it, not to mention her family, her children, all of those things,” he said. “And so we need to stop making it the stigmatized topic because that is how we got into this situation.”