A Maryland Senate committee voted yesterday to do away with a House-approved budget amendment that wuld have severely restricted the ability of poor women to obtain state funds to pay for abortions.
The 9 to 3 vote in the Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee sets the stage for a barbed debate on the floor of the Senate later this week. The full Senate is expected to follow the committed's lead and removed the restrictions, althought the final vote is expected to be much closer than the lopsided committee tally.
"It's going to be a fight; it's going to be a hell of a fight," said Sen. Victor L. Crawford (D-Montgomery), shortly after he had voted with a majority of the committee members to strike out the restrictive budget amendment.
The budget amendment, approved by a vote of 71 to 64 in the House last week, allows the state to use Medicaid funds to finance abortions only if the mother's life is in danger, if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, or it two doctors certigy that the mother would suffer physical harm unless the pregnancy were terminated.
"We're speaking of birth control by abortion, it's just that simple," argued Sen. Peter A. Bozick (D-Prince George's). "Somewhere along the line we're speaking of human life," he added.
He was answered by Sen. Rosalie Abrams (D-Baltimore) who said, "This amendment is a vicious amendment. ... It means only 5 percent of the poor women who want abortions can get them.
"We're not forcing anyone to have an abortion," Abrams added. "Many religious groups feel that life begins at conception. Many rligious groups do not believe life begins at conception. Does one religious group take precedence over a person who does not believe life begins at conception?"
If the senators fail to accept the restrictions imposed by the House, a conference committee would be established to try to arrive at a compromise acceptable to both chambers. It is essential that both the House and the Senate reach some sort of accommodation on this issue, since the House-aproved amendment restricting state-funded abortions is attached to themammoth state budget bill.