Prince George's County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan has issued an executive order that prohibits county-run hospitals from performing any abortions except those required to save the life of a woman.
Hogan's executive order, which took effect Monday, the day he signed it, also requires the county's two hospitals to submit monthly reports to him that detail every abortion performed within the last 30 days and give a "justification" for it being done.
Hogan was unavailable for comment, but aides said he was acting on a longstanding opposition to allowing women to have abortions on demand.
"He wanted to stop all abortions in county-owned facilities," said Hogan's health aide Irv Smith. "He is steadfastly opposed to abortions."
About 250 abortions are performed each year at Greater Laurel-Beltsville and Prince George's General hospitals, the county's two hospitals, Smith said. Of those, at least 125 are for women who choose to have them although their lives are not in danger.
It is this group that will find the doors of the county's two hospitals closed in the future, Smith said.
Hogan's executive order is modeled on one issued in 1977 by the mayor of St. Louis that prevented city hospitals there from performing abortions. That order was challenged and eventually made its way to the Supreme Court where the justices allowed it to stand.
According to officials at the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a research arm connected to Planned Parenthood, the Supreme Court's decision in Poelker vs. Doe caused a reduction in the number of public hospitals that offer abortion on demand for non-emergency patients. They did not know how many jurisdictions prohibited such abortions by order of government officials.
Hogan's order surprised several county officials yesterday who questioned whether he had the authority to set such policy for the county hospitals.
According to the county law creating the Prince George's Hospital Commission, which runs the two hospitals and other smaller facilities, the commission rather than the county government is supposed to make policy decisions.
William Parker, head of the commission, could not be reached for comment on the Hogan order yesterday.
County Council members also reacted with surprise to Hogan's executive order. "My God, he's way off base," said Ann Landry Lombardi. "I know he has a following of antiabortionists but that's wrong. As a politician he is dictating to medical professionals how they should run their medical practice."
In addition to gaining him the support of antiabortion forces, Hogan's abortion stance has earned him the emnity of the National Organization for Women, which, he has said, once named him as "Public Enemy Number One."