The parents of a baby that was born after only 4 1/2 months of gestation and died soon after can sue for wrongful death, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The court unanimously decided that the parents of Grace Anne Blumenthal, a premature baby who died soon after birth, have the right to sue the Group Health Association Inc. of the District for not giving the mother proper medical advice. At the same time, however, attorneys in the case said the court made it clear that its decision should have no bearing on any subsequent abortion issues.

Patricia L. Blumenthal and her husband, George M. Blumenthal, of Oxon Hill, sued GHA after their daughter was born during a visit to Patricia Blumenthal's parents in Tennessee two years ago.

The Blumenthals' attorney, Jonathan A. Azrael, said the couple maintained that the health association's doctors should have taken procedures to prevent the premature birth or should have advised her not to make the long trip.

GHA lawyers argued that the parents could not sue for wrongful death because the baby was born too young to live outside the womb.

The court also ruled that claims involving health maintenance organizations such as GHA must first be heard by the state's Health Claims Arbitration panel, before any appeal to the courts.