House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones introduced a bill that would ask voters if they want to enshrine the right to an abortion in the Maryland constitution.

A draft of the bill, which was introduced at a perfunctory House session Monday, states “every person, as a central component of an individual’s rights to liberty and equality, has the fundamental right to reproductive freedom including but not limited to the ability to make and effectuate decisions to prevent, continue, or end one’s own pregnancy.”

If the bill passes, Maryland voters in 2024 will be asked whether they want to amend the state constitution to include this language.

More than half the delegates in the chamber — 80 total, all Democrats — are co-sponsoring the bill. Gov. Wes Moore, too, repeatedly said on the campaign trail he planned to support this move. Enshrining “the right to abortion in Maryland’s Constitution,” is, in fact, the Democrat’s first listed priority under the protecting reproductive rights section of his campaign website.

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During the 2022 session, a similar version of the bill introduced by Jones was approved by the House on a 93-42 vote, but stalled once it crossed over into the Senate. Lawmakers were considering a separate bill, known as the Abortion Care Access Act, that expanded who could provide an abortion in the state and provided money for training. The bill passed after hours of debate, but just two weeks remained in the session — not enough time for the constitutional amendment.

The abortion conversation has shifted since session ended last year. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the legal precedent guaranteeing a right to an abortion in the U.S.

Early in this year’s session, Ferguson told reporters that “in a post-Roe world, it is an enormous priority for us to make sure that Maryland women feel protected and safe in their health care needs.” He said he fundamentally believes the privacy between a woman and her doctor should be protected by the state constitution.

Should the abortion referendum be introduced in the Senate this session, Ferguson said “it will definitely come to the Senate floor and I believe it has the votes to pass.”

Ferguson has also filed a Senate version of the bill with 19 cosponsors.

Callan Tansill-Suddath covered the Maryland General Assembly for The Baltimore Banner. She previously covered the beat for WYPR 88.1, and Capital News Service, and reported on Montgomery and Prince George's Counties for WAMU/DCist. A native of Silver Spring, Callan holds a Master of Journalism degree from the University of Maryland. 

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