Opinion: We need a special post-Roe session at Annapolis

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Abortion rights supporters gathered at Lawyers’ Mall in Annapolis in October 2021. Photo by Josh Kurtz.

By Lily M. Bolourian

The author is an Iranian-American political organizer, executive director of Pro-Choice Maryland and Pro-Choice Maryland Action, and a graduate of Hofstra University School of Law. She is based in Germantown.

Now that most races have been called and we begin the process of reconciliation, can we talk about access to abortion?

This year, the Maryland General Assembly passed the historic Access to Abortion Care Act of 2022, presented by main sponsors, Senator Delores Kelley and Del. Ariana Kelly. This key bill (with what turned out to be truly impeccable timing) was of course vetoed by Governor Hogan and later overruled by most of the Democratic majority in the Senate except for a few. Democrats who voted with Republicans in favor of Hogan’s veto. .

The importance of the Abortion Care Access Act of 2022 cannot be underestimated. As of July 1, advanced practice qualified clinicians – i.e. nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, physician assistants – are eligible under the law to provide abortion care in Maryland. . In a state with good abortion laws but huge gaps in abortion access, this is an immediate fix that has already changed the landscape of Maryland for the better and modernized our laws. to join 18 other states in allowing qualified non-physician providers to provide abortion care. .

Hogan’s undemocratic decision to withhold $3.5 million in funds earmarked by our elected officials to train new providers remains an obstacle to truly implementing the spirit of the law. We cannot forgive or forget that Governor Hogan did everything possible to prevent a landmark abortion access bill from realizing its full potential just days after the Supreme Court struck down 50 years of precedent. in Roe v. Wade.

Unfortunately, Governor Hogan isn’t the only one who hasn’t acted on key legislation. Many can be blamed for the failure to advance the Freedom of Pregnant Persons Act 2022 (HB626/SB689) and Constitutional Amendment Protect reproductive freedom (HB1171) in the last session, despite lawyers warning lawmakers of what we expected in the Jackson Women’s Health v. Dobbs case that ultimately upended Roe v. Wade last June.

The Pregnant Person’s Liberty Act, sponsored by Del. Nicole Williams in the House of Delegates and Senator Will Smith in the state Senate, would amend the criminal code to decriminalize the results of an individual’s pregnancy. It is a common-sense measure aimed at protecting pregnant women from lawsuits for miscarriages or self-managed abortion care in an unclear post-Roe legal landscape. Currently, our Maryland criminal code actually allows individuals to be prosecuted for the outcomes of their pregnancies, including pregnancy loss outside of clinical settings.

Consider the tainted Supreme Court and a potential future GOP majority in Congress teaming up to pass a “personality” law that would falsely grant civil rights to fertilized eggs. This would cause an immediate legal crisis that would put Marylanders facing pregnancy loss in a very vulnerable position. This is what we are up against. This dilemma cannot be meaningfully resolved by relying on the discretion of individual district and state attorneys throughout Maryland. It should be codified in law that all pregnancy outcomes in Maryland are decriminalized.

The anti-abortion propaganda machine caught wind of the Pregnant Person’s Freedom Act and began to spin its wheels with the same tired, disgusting, baseless attacks it has perpetrated for half a century. As an organizer of the abortion access and reproductive justice movement for more than half my life and as the executive director of the only statewide organization organizing for the access to abortion and reproductive freedom, I can tell you this without hesitation: Fanatics who oppose abortion will always use the same tactics and launch the same vile attacks to distract from their ruthless political agenda. aimed at destroying the privacy rights of Marylanders and controlling if, when and how someone becomes a parent, by any measure. which is highlighted.

There is no compromise to be made, nor any appetite for anything close to it on the part of the opposition. They will use their same inflammatory and long-debunked tactics to distract from the fact that they belong to a political movement that consistently votes against social safety nets to help families in Maryland, that opposes universal health care, that opposes paid family leave, opposes refugee housing, and attacks and antagonizes transgender people. They have no solutions, only demagoguery, and you have to see their tactics for what they are: a distraction.

The Constitutional Amendment (HB 1171) is another obvious, common-sense measure that should have passed last session and must pass now. The bill was introduced by House Speaker Adrienne Jones to codify the right to reproductive freedom in the state constitution and prohibit undue state interference in the pursuit of abortion and all reproductive health care. In such unclear times, we need the strongest protections possible. There will never be a greater opportunity to amend our state constitution to enshrine the inalienable right of reproductive freedom than the opportunity before us now.

The end of the Roe wards is an absolute tragedy, an aberration, and the impacts of this historic blunder are only beginning to be felt across the country and in our state. It is no longer an existential threat; Roe v. Wade is gone forever. He was taken from us and will not return. What is currently replacing Roe is a large-scale public health emergency that requires all of the above solution and all government efforts.

Now that the primary election is largely over, it’s time for the General Assembly to act quickly to protect access to abortion. We must work proactively to protect the people of Maryland from the dangerous and drastic whims of the unelected Supreme Court. The General Assembly must seize the opportunity and convene a special session to immediately pass HB 1171 (Bill of Reproductive Freedom Rights) and HB626/SB689 (Pregnant Person’s Freedom Act of 2022).

We cannot afford to give another moment of our time to those who consistently act in bad faith to impede progress. Now is the time to be bold on access to abortion. There is a real opportunity for Maryland to lead the way in protecting and expanding access to abortion in the country, and it’s time for us to seize it.

Immediately advance a special session, pass these bills, and let voters show us once again that Maryland supports reproductive freedom and abortion access this November.

Let’s make Maryland a safe haven for abortion access.

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