Abortion rights supporters launch campaign for Maryland constitutional amendment

Maryland first lady Dawn Moore speaks in support of a constitutional amendment to enshrine the right to abortion in the Maryland Constitution during a news conference on Monday, Jan. 22, 2024 in Annapolis, Md., on the 51st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Members of the Freedom in Reproduction Maryland ballot committee announced a campaign to support the ballot question in November at a news conference in front of the Maryland State House. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

NNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Abortion rights supporters in Maryland launched a campaign on Monday — the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade — to enshrine the right for women to end their pregnancies in the Maryland Constitution in November.

Members of the Freedom in Reproduction Maryland ballot committee announced the effort in front of the state Capitol. Last year, Maryland lawmakers voted to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe in 2022 and ended the nationwide right to abortion.

“Immediately after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, too many states have turned their backs to women,” Maryland first lady Dawn Moore said at a news conference with supporters, including Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones, a Democrat. “While states like our neighbor West Virginia passed a near-total abortion ban and closed their doors on reproductive rights, Maryland has opened ours.”

The overturning of Roe left it to states to decide on abortion’s legality. Some have severely restricted it while others have strengthened abortion access or are considering doing so.

Maryland law already protects the right to abortion. The state approved legislation in 1991 to protect abortion rights if the Supreme Court were to allow abortion to be restricted. Voters showed their support for the law the following year, when 62% backed it in a referendum. Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in the state.

Those behind the proposed constitutional amendment say it would make it even harder for opponents to try to strip away abortion rights in the future.

“If we vote ‘yes’ on reproductive freedom, our rights will be protected well into the future, no matter who’s in office, but if we fall short, if we don’t get it done, I promise there’s always going to be someone out there looking to turn back the clock,” Moore said.

Maryland officials have said the state already is seeing an increase in patients from other states.

Since the high court overturned Roe, roughly 25 million women live in states with some type of ban in effect. The impacts are increasingly felt by women who never intended to end their pregnancies yet have had emergency medical care denied or delayed because of the new restrictions.

A ballot committee called Health Not Harm MD opposes Maryland’s proposed amendment.

“If approved by voters in November 2024, the ‘Reproductive Freedom’ Amendment will mandate that Maryland taxpayers fully fund these radical elective procedures, enriching politicians who seek to impose this radical agenda on Maryland families,” the group said on its website.

In addition to putting the constitutional amendment on the ballot, Maryland lawmakers also approved a package of measures last year to protect abortion rights.

Those laws protect patients and providers from criminal, civil and administrative penalties relating to abortion bans or restrictions in other states. Lawmakers also approved a separate data-privacy bill to protect medical and insurance records on reproductive health in electronic health information exchanges that can be shared across state lines.

By BRIAN WITTE Associated Press