One year after Roe was overturned, Gov. Moore pledges to keep abortion legal

Published 6/23/2023 11:37 a.m. EDT, Updated 6/23/2023 3:17 p.m. EDT

Karen J. Nelson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Maryland, speaks to Gov. Wes Moore at Planned Parenthood's Annapolis clinic on Friday, June 23, 2023, one year after the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion was overturned.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore marked the first anniversary of Roe v. Wade being overturned by visiting a Planned Parenthood clinic and pledging to keep the state a safe haven for abortion care.

“The forces that are actively working to roll back rights, they are busy now. … The thing we are really standing in unison and saying is: Not in Maryland,” the Democratic governor told The Baltimore Banner after touring the Annapolis clinic on Friday. “In Maryland, we are going to be aggressive and we believe deeply that abortion is health care and that health care is going to be a right for people.”

This weekend marks one year since the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that effectively ended nationwide protection of abortion care as a legal practice. The ruling overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that had legalized abortion.

The ruling left it to states to decide whether to allow abortion care or not, and states have taken divergent paths, with Republican-led states often restricting or outlawing abortion and Democratic-led states like Maryland protecting or even expanding access.

Planned Parenthood Maryland has seen an influx of patients from other states seeking reproductive and abortion care since last summer’s ruling, said Karen J. Nelson, the organization’s president and CEO.

Where Planned Parenthood Maryland once saw mainly out-of-state patients from bordering states, now the clinics have counted patients from 26 states.

“We’re seeing our worst nightmares come true,” Nelson said. “And that’s that people are having to travel from out of state and people are having to jump through hoops to receive care that they can’t receive at their own homes.”

Maryland will remain in the group of states protecting abortion care, Moore said.

“We want to make sure that people are able to make decisions about their own health care without fear of intimidation, without fear of retribution,” he said.

Maryland law has protected the option to continue or end pregnancies since the early 1990s, following a voter referendum.

In the 2024 election, Marylanders will vote on whether to enshrine those same protections in the state constitution. While that wouldn’t effectively change the legal status or access to abortion, a state constitutional amendment would be harder to undo, should Maryland’s political makeup shift in the future. Polling has shown consistently strong support for abortion remaining legal in Maryland.

Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones discusses her proposal to put the right to reproductive choice -- including abortion -- into the state constitution, during a press conference at the State House in Annapolis on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. She's joined by other political leaders including Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, Gov. Wes Moore and Senate President Bill Ferguson.

Maryland lawmakers in 2022 set aside money in the state budget to provide training in abortion care to medical professionals. After former Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, declined to spend the money, Moore released it on his first day in office.

Moore and state health officials also recently stockpiled drugs used in medication abortions, concerned that access to those drugs could be limited as their approvals are challenged in court.

Maryland lawmakers, with the support of Moore, also passed bills this year that:

  • Prohibit law enforcement in other states from requiring Maryland-based providers to testify or provide evidence in cases involving reproductive health care
  • Enhance privacy protections for patient health records
  • Require public universities to create plans for offering reproductive health care

The next front, Health Secretary Laura Herrera Scott said, is ensuring access to contraceptives that prevent pregnancy. She declined to provide details on what Maryland might pursue — the legality of contraceptive use is believed to be covered by Maryland law and the proposed constitutional amendment — but said “that’s something we’re actively pursuing.”

Advocates have worried courts could target legal protections for birth control employing the same arguments used to overturn Roe v. Wade. Friday, President Joe Biden ordered federal health agencies to ensure insurance plans were providing coverage for contraception.

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