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Amendment on abortion doesn’t advance in Maryland

March 26, 2022 GMT

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A proposal to enshrine the right to abortion in the Maryland Constitution failed to advance in the Maryland Senate on Friday, though other measures to expand access to providers moved forward.

After legislation received preliminary approval in the Senate to expand abortion access in the state, Senate President Bill Ferguson said those measures would be “the only time we take up this issue this session.”

“I know there are lots of other possible ideas out there. I think this is the issue that we will take on for this session,” Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, told his colleagues at the end of the Senate’s Friday session.

Earlier this month, the Maryland House of Delegates voted for a bill sponsored by House Speaker Adrienne Jones that would have given voters the final say in November on whether to enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. It required a three-fifths vote in the Senate to follow through and put the matter on the ballot.

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The right to abortion already is protected in Maryland law. The state approved legislation in 1991 to do so if the Supreme Court should ever restrict abortions. It was petitioned to the ballot, and voters approved the right in 1992 with 62% of the vote.

Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1 in the state, and the General Assembly is heavily Democratic.

The new conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing whether to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that banned states from outlawing abortion. If they do, at least 26 states are likely to either ban abortion outright or severely limit access, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that supports abortion rights.

Other states, however, are drafting proposals to counter those measures.

The Maryland Senate advanced legislation on Friday already approved in the House to expand access to abortions in the state. The legislation would increase the number of qualified providers in the state. It would remove a legal restriction that prevents nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician assistants from providing abortions.

The measure also creates an abortion care training program and requires $3.5 million in state funding for it each year.

The legislation also aims to provide equitable access to abortion coverage, whether with private insurance or Medicaid. It would require private insurance plans, except for those with legal exemptions, to cover abortion care and without cost-sharing or deductibles.