The pressure was on Mildred Harkness from the first moment she stepped into the statehouse last month. There was the small mountain of notes and 100 or more phone calls from people wanting her to vote one way or another on the abortion bill.
Then there were the impassioned impromptu pleas made in the hallways, as she walked from one appointment to the next.
Some of the anti-abortion advocates said, 'We'll pray for you,'" the freshman delegate from Prince George's recalled last week. "I answered, 'I'll need that - I need all the help I can get.'"
Other people - "doctors, ministers and just plain people who felt strongly about it" - buttonholed Harkness again and again in the three weeks before she and the rest of the Environmental Matters Committee finally faced the abortion vote.
And, after all the pressure from both sides, Mildred Harkness voted against Democrat Leo E. Green - a proposal that would have cut off all state Medicaid payments for abortions.
In this same thre weeks, Mildred Harkness got a brusque lesson - a lesson that showed very graphically the different s between being a council woman for the city if Hyattsville and representing the 22nd District in Maryland's General Assembly.
It's not that the lobbying is really done any differently. It's just that there's more of it.
Yes, there had been extremely emotional issues in Hyattsville, such as the furor over the placement of a new Safeway store. "There is emotion over almost everything," Harkness observed recently.
"The issues that are not emotionally charged are easier. It's easier to arrive at a decision," she said. "You decide if there is enough service involved in a proposal to warrant what it would cost - or you decide if the citizens are so fed up with costs in general that nothing that means an increase is good."
The emotional issues, however, "you think over more." On the abortion question, she saidM "I got a lot of talking to. I didn't go down there with my mind made up. And to some degree, I felt the lobbying was good.
"The pressure was on both sides. It gave me the chance to read the (legislation) through, to reason the thing through and to figure out what my position should be." NOTEBOOK, From Page 1>
But when all the talking is over, when all the veiled threats have been made, and all the pointed comments about the next election are over, "you arrive at your own decision," she said. "When you find your district well balanced, when the pressure is about even from both sides, then you have to go to your own mind."
By the time it came to the vote last week, that is what Mildred Harkness felt she had to do. Two days before, she had been told that she would be the swing vote in committee, that her decision would deeply affect the course of the bill, that she could even kill it if she opposed it.
But she had problems with the bill - not so much with the abortion question as with an earlier section that defined life as beginning with conception.
"There was nothing in the title of the bill talking about it being a redefinition of life," she said. "And yet that was in there."
When Leo Green came to Harkness and asked how she would vote, "I told him he should clean up the bill," she said.
When the bill came up for a vote, however, the same definition of hte beginning of human life was there.
"I didn't make up my mind until I had the opportunity to listen to the (final) discussion in committee," Harkness said over the weekend.
Then she cast her vote with the 13 member majority, killing the bill, at least temporarily. After a sharp debate on the House floor Tuesday, Harkness again voted with the majority, this time to kill the Green bill permanently.
"Some people have called back (after the committee vote) and objected very strongly. It is an emotional question. They haven't outright called me a murderer, but they say I've supported murder," she said.
Even that doesn't appear to bother her.
"They give us a title of being delegate," she pointed out " ... unless the various opinions and feelings are all brought to our attention we can't make a good decision ... this pressure is what we accept when we say, 'I want to do that job.'"
Even so, she said, the sheer weight of the pressure was a little greater than she had expected.
"I've done my lobbying from the outside before this," she said. "I've seen the finges and the outside edges. But as a brand new person coming down and being a part of it, well, it was different than what I'd seen before."