Delegation is divided over abortion vote

March 20, 1998


Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County's six members in the Maryland House of Delegates split Thursday over a measure that would allow more publicly funded abortions under an expanded insurance program for 60,000 poor children and pregnant women.

By a 63-71 vote, the House rejected a proposal that would have restricted abortions in an enhanced health program to only those allowed under federal regulations - in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother.

Voting against the measure were Dels. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, and J. Anita Stup, R-Frederick/Washington. Dels. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, and Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington, voted in favor of the amendment.


Donoghue said he voted for the amendment to bring the Maryland program in line with federal restrictions.

The state policy now is to pay through Medicaid for abortions to protect the mental health of the mother and in cases of genetic defects.

Many supporters of the amendment said abortions would increase under Gov. Parris N. Glendening's proposal to offer insurance to working poor earning up to twice the federal poverty limit.

State officials have estimated about 60 more teenage girls would get abortions each year under the program, but some lawmakers said it would be higher.

"What we're talking about is an expansion of funding for abortions," said Del. Thomas E. Dewberry, D-Baltimore County.

Opponents of the amendment said cutting abortions out of the health insurance program would discriminate against working poor people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford abortions.

"That doesn't make sense to me," Poole said.

Stup, one of only four House Republicans to vote against the amendment, said she felt the abortion issue should be resolved when the House amends the state budget.

"That's where this body has historically tackled the thorny issue of funding abortion," she said.

Del. Robert L. Flanagan, R-Howard, called that argument a "misguided point" because even if the House put tighter abortion restrictions in its budget language, it still would have to seek a compromise with the Senate.

On Wednesday, the Senate rejected the tighter abortion restrictions during its budget deliberations. Sens. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, and John W. Derr, R-Frederick/Washington, voted for the restrictions.

"We can do nothing in the budget that will totally foreclose the issue," Flanagan said.

Donoghue said he was concerned that the abortion debate could hurt efforts to get the entire bill passed.

"Let's get on with the issue of getting the working poor health insurance," he said.

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