Senator says abortion bill doomed

February 25, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

Senator says abortion bill doomed

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County's two state senators in the Maryland General Assembly took opposite sides in a vote over abortion-ban legislation Wednesday.

The Senate voted 26-21 to send the controversial legislation back to a legislative committee - a parliamentary maneuver many lawmakers said ensures the measure's doom.

"It's dead," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, a supporter of the legislation aimed at banning so-called partial-birth abortions.

Partial-birth abortion is a term coined by abortion opponents to describe a late-term procedure in which the fetus is partially delivered before the abortion is performed. Supporters of the bill to ban the procedure said it is used only in late stages of pregnancy and is little more than infanticide.


"It's barbaric. It's hideous," Munson said.

Sen. John W. Derr, R-Frederick/Washington, opposed the bill, saying it could open the door to a ban on all abortions.

"I would like to be able to vote for a bill that makes it absolutely clear it's a ban on late-term abortions, but this doesn't," he said.

Derr, the Senate minority whip, and Minority Leader Vernon Boozer, R-Baltimore County, were the only two Republicans to vote in favor of sending the legislation back to committee.

"It could be misconstrued that we're for late-term abortions. That's not the case at all," Derr said.

The vote came after a two-hour debate on the Senate floor during which many of the legislation's opponents echoed Derr's comments. They said the bill's wording was too vague and didn't specifically define a procedure they maintain is rarely performed.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, chief sponsor of the legislation, said it mirrors laws in other states as well as the federal late-term ban that was vetoed by President Clinton.

"The words are correctly chosen. They define only one procedure, and this bill will not affect any other abortion procedure," said Haines.

The bill's opponents repeatedly asked Haines why he wasn't more specific in the legislation, specifying, for instance, a particular week in a pregnancy that defines late term.

"I'd like to just trust you, but it's not in the bill," Sen. Delores G. Kelley, D-Baltimore, told Haines.

Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, D-Baltimore County, said the bill's vagueness could even be interpreted to define miscarriages.

"Abortion just doesn't refer to the term you are talking about," Hollinger said.

Haines refused to offer an amendment to further define the procedure.

"I think it's very clear that what this bill does is ban this procedure and not other abortion at all," he said.

Munson agreed.

"The bill is very clear. The issue is very clear," he said.

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