Sun/UB Poll: Marylanders favor state constitutional amendment to strengthen abortion rights

Threats to national abortion rights are helping drive turnout in Maryland’s election, according to a new poll that found an overwhelming number of likely voters favor a state constitutional amendment to try to safeguard the procedure.

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they were more motivated to vote since the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion a constitutional right, according to the Baltimore Sun Media and the University of Baltimore poll. The court’s action shifted the onus to states to decide whether abortion services are legal.


A larger number, 71%, believe Maryland should bolster abortion rights by amending the state’s constitution.

Abortion isn’t on the current ballot, and General Assembly action would be required next year to place it before voters in November 2024. But Maryland voters told pollsters and reporters that the issue is helping drive their choices.


Maryland law already guarantees the legality of the procedure, but a constitutional amendment would be much more difficult to overturn.

Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones promoted legislation in the last General Assembly session that would have allowed voters to decide whether to place the right to abortion in the state constitution.

The proposed amendment would guarantee each individual’s “fundamental right to reproductive liberty” including to “prevent, continue, or end their pregnancy.” The legislation passed the House but didn’t clear the Senate.

Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, plans to reintroduce the measure in the legislative session that begins January 2023, her chief of staff, Jeremy Baker, said Friday in an interview.

The legislation, if approved by at least a 60% vote in the Senate and House of Delegates, would put the question before voters for the next general election, in November 2024. If ratified by a simple majority of voters, the protection would be written into the constitution after the governor certifies the addition.

While there is no abortion question currently before voters, the issue is motivating a significant number of them.

“I think a women’s right to choose is a fundamental right that I am obligated to protect,” said Patricia Becker, 68, who cast her vote Oct. 27 at the Odenton Library. She said she has often gone back and forth between Democrats and Republicans, but this time it was strictly Democrat down the ticket.

Abortion rights were also top of mind when Towson retiree Mary Hinton voted Thursday morning.


“When I vote — regardless — I’m not voting for or against abortion,” she said. “I’m voting for a person’s right to make that choice themselves.”

Early voting in Maryland ends Thursday, and the election is Nov. 8. The election includes statewide races for governor, attorney general and comptroller, a U.S. Senate seat, all eight congressional seats, state delegates and senators, and a number of county and local positions.

In Maryland, a person is permitted to have an abortion up to the point where the fetus is viable outside the womb, considered about 24 weeks, and later to protect the health or life of the pregnant person or for a fetal anomaly.

The General Assembly moved earlier this year to bolster abortion access in Maryland, adding to the workers who would be allowed to provide the procedures. Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, opposed the bill, but his veto was overridden in April.

Republicans were much less swayed by the issue than Democrats in deciding whether to vote, according to the poll.

Less than half — 44% — of GOP voters reported that the Supreme Court’s June decision made them more likely to cast ballots, compared to 74% of Democrats.


About the same share of Republicans — 43% — said they favored the state constitutional amendment protecting abortion. The number was 83% for Democrats.

The statewide survey of 562 Democratic, 247 Republican and 180 unaffiliated likely voters was conducted by phone and online Oct. 20-23. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Abortion has been an issue in several prominent races, including the gubernatorial contest in which Democrat Wes Moore has painted Republican Dan Cox as an extremist who will restrict abortion rights.

Cox, a state delegate, has introduced and supported legislation in Annapolis that would effectively ban abortion. In a recent debate, he did not answer a direct question about whether he supports federal efforts by some Republicans to implement nationwide restrictions on abortions.

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In the 1st Congressional District race, Democratic challenger Heather Mizeur has criticized Republican Rep. Andy Harris for co-sponsoring the “Life at Conception Act,” which would block abortions at all stages of pregnancy. Harris says he favors more moderate legislation — a measure by South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham that would prohibit doctors nationwide from performing abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for rape and incest.

Abortion can be politically problematic for Maryland Republicans because the Democratic Party, which favors abortion rights, maintains a 2-1 voter registration advantage in the state. Hogan, a second-term Republican, has repeatedly referred to abortion as “settled law” in Maryland while personally opposing it.


The issue received renewed attention in September when Graham proposed his bill.

If it became law, the bill would supersede any state abortion protections such as Maryland’s.

Graham’s legislation has not been embraced by Senate Republican leaders and is almost certain not to pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate or House. The current congressional session ends in early January, but the measure could be reintroduced in the new Congress.

Baltimore Sun Media reporters Christine Condon and Brian Jeffries contributed to this article.

About this poll

Results are based on a representative statewide survey of 559 Democratic, 254 Republican and 169 unaffiliated Maryland residents likely to vote in the Nov. 8 election. The poll was conducted Oct. 20-23 by OpinionWorks of Annapolis for Baltimore Sun Media and the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs and Schaefer Center for Public Policy. A cross section of voters were randomly selected and contacted by trained interviewers on cellphones and landline telephones, and additional voters were interviewed online through databases known as consumer panels. Statistical weights were applied to ensure the sample closely matched the expected makeup, based on past voting patterns, of the state’s electorate. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

For the record

This article has been corrected to say how many Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated likely voters went into the poll's methodology. The Sun regrets the error.