In a sharp contrast to the liberal abortion position adopted by the House two weeks ago, the Maryland Senate today approved a measure that would virtually eliminate state abortion funding for poor women.
The Senate action, which came on a 25-to-22 vote, means that the disparate abortion positions of the two legislative chambers are likely to be resolved by a six-member conference communittee unless either house decides to aquiese to the other's decision.
The more restrictive Senate measure, modeled after language adopted by Congress, permits state-funded Medicaid abortions only when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or when carrying the pregnancy to full term would either endanger the life of the mother or result in severe and long-lasting physical health damage.
The House version differs in one key respect. It permits state-funded abortions if the pregnancy would have a detrimental effect on the health of the woman. That is the precise language that a conference committee wrote last year when the House and Senate, much like this year, disagreed on the issue.
Antiabortionists say the language is too broad, arguing that abortions dropped by only 10 percent in the state in the year since the measure was adopted. By contrast, they note, the congressional abortion guidelines cut federally-funded abortions by about 90 percent last year.
Antiabortionists in the legislature, although encouraged by today's vote, said they feared that the conference committee of three delegates and three senators would restore much of the liberal language.
"In the end, I'm afraid we might get shafted," said freshman Del. Timothy Maloney (D-Prince George's), a leader of the House antiabortion faction. Added Sen. Thomas V. (Mike) Miller, also from Prince George's: "The Senate president and House speaker pick the committee, and they're both on the other side."
House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin and Senate President James Clark Jr. both voted against the more restrictive measures. They said today that they had not yet decided whom to appoint to the conference committee.
The House and Senate abortion measures both were adopted as amendments to the 1980 budget. Because of that, the budget will not be passed until the conference committee hammers out the abortion language and it is accepted by both houses.
Although senators on both sides of the issue were relatively certain that the restrictive measure would be approved today, the lobbying was as intense as ever.
Gov. Harry Hughes, a supporter of the current less restrictive language, placed telephone calls to several undecided senators this week. Unlike the administration lobbying effort when the House considered the issue, Hughes did not let his patronage chief, Louise Keelty, take part in the effort.
When Keelty lobbied in the House several antiabortion delegates charged that she left the impression that she was trading jobs for votes.The charges were quickly retracted.
"But even though she was acting properly," Hughes said yesterday, "I didn't want even the possibility of someone making a charge like that, so I told her not to lobby at all on the issue."
On the antiabortion side, once again, was Rita Bogley, the wife of Lt. Gov. Samuel W. Bogley, and scores if her right-to-life comrades who jammed the Senate chambers and twice angered Clark by noisily reacting to the procedings.
They hissed and moaned when pro-abortion Sen. Robert Douglass (D-Baltimore) said that poor women who are affected by the measure were too busy taking care of their families to watch the Senate. And they cheered when the 25-to-22 vote was recorded on the electronic tote board.