The House of Delegates, responding to an intensive lobbying effort by abortion opponents, firmly rejected today an attempt by Gov. Harry Hughes to ease Maryland's restrictions on the public funding of abortions for poor women.
By a 10-vote margin, the House voted to leave intact current budget guidelines that have been in place since 1980. Abortion-rights advocates claim the guidelines have denied the poor the same access to abortions enjoyed by the middle class and the wealthy and have resulted in a 40 percent reduction in the number of Medicaid abortions.
The abortion vote came as the House swiftly completed its preliminary review of Hughes' $7.5 billion budget, which generated virtually no discussion other than on the abortion question. The House could give final approval to the budget as early as Friday.
It was the second such rebuke on abortion funding for Hughes in three years. Today's 75-to-65 vote to keep the current language was an even stronger statement by the legislature than two years ago, when Hughes lost by six votes. Last year Hughes steered clear of the issue and the House for the only time in recent years approved more liberal abortion spending guidelines.
Under current guidelines, the state will pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest or physical danger to the mother or when a doctor certifies in writing that there is "medical evidence" that her mental health would be seriously affected by carrying her baby to term.
Hughes had sought to ease that so-called mental health requirement by permitting abortions in cases where a doctor determines that continuation of the pregnancy would have a "detrimental" effect on the woman's health.
Today's vote capped almost two months of furious lobbying by both sides on the abortion question, efforts which included weekly vigils during the General Assembly's Monday night sessions. As the House debated the issue for 45 minutes today, the galleries were clogged with abortion foes, many of them accompanied by small children wearing "Vote Pro-Life" stickers.
The antiabortion campaign was noticeably stronger than in past years and included a more aggressive posture by the Catholic Church -- which has had two full-time lobbyists in Annapolis since the beginning of the session. They were joined by a potent force of fundamentalist Protestant church members who exerted considerable muscle in Anne Arundel County and some rural areas, convincing several delegates who have been longtime abortion-rights advocates to switch sides.
Among those who defected was Tyras Athey (D-Anne Arundel), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He readily admitted he changed his position after coming under a withering lobbying campaign by abortion opponents.
"Personally, I still feel the same way," said Athey, "but there was such strong feeling that I thought if I am going to represent my constituents, I would have to vote with them."
Abortion opponents also appeared to benefit from what Del. Timothy F. Maloney (D-Prince George's) termed "legislative exhaustion" after voting on abortion roll calls 25 times in nine years. The legislature, said Maloney, felt "enough is enough" and decided to maintain the uneasy compromise that has been in place for five years.
Although the state Senate could still revive the volatile issue once the budget reaches the upper chamber, legislators on both sides said today the matter is probably settled for 1985 and that the compromise language reaffirmed today will prevail for at least another year.
"I expect things to stay where they are," said Sen. Francis X. Kelly, the leader of the abortion opponents in the Senate. Although Kelly said antiabortion advocates are likely to press for a recorded vote in the Senate on even more restrictive language, he said, "my instincts tell me that would not be the prudent thing to do." Abortion-rights activists, trying to put the best face possible on today's vote as they pledged to return next year, said the House action represented a standoff.
"I don't think anyone won today," said Steve Rivelis, a lobbyist for an umbrella organization called Marylanders for the Right to Choose. "The only losers were poor women who were once again denied equal access to safe, legal abortions."
Here is the House of Delegates roll call on yesterday's crucial vote on abortion. The vote is on a budget amendment supported by abortion opponents that substitutes existing Medicaid funding language for the governor's proposal to make it easier for poor women to obtain abortions. A yes vote is a vote for the amendment.
Montgomery County: Joel Chasnoff, No; Gene Counihan, No; Jerry Hyatt, No; Judith Toth, Yes; Marilyn Goldwater, No; Nancy Kopp, No; Constance Morella, No; Mary Boergers, No; Jennie Forehand, No; Michael Gordon, No; Helen Koss, No; Donald Robertson, No; Patricia Sher, No; Idamae Garrott, No; Lucille Maurer, No; Joseph Owens, Yes; Sheila Hixson, No; Diane Kirchenbauer, No; Ida Ruben, No.
Prince George's: Timothy Maloney, Yes; Pauline Menes, No; Thomas Mooney, Yes; David Bird, Yes; Richard Palumbo, Yes; Frank Pesci, Yes; Gerard Devlin, Yes; Joan Pitkin, Yes; Charles Ryan, Yes; Nathaniel Exum, No; Francis Santangelo, Yes; Sylvania Woods, No; Dennis Donaldson, Yes; Jerry Perry, Yes; Albert Wynn, No; Christine Jones, Yes; Marian Patterson, No; Frederick Rummage, Yes; William McCaffrey, Yes; Joseph Vallario, Yes; Gary Alexander, Yes.
Anne Arundel County: John Astle, No; Elmer Hagner, Yes; Robert Kramer, Yes; Philip Jimeno, Yes; Charles Kolodziejski, Yes; John Leopold, Yes; Tyras Athey, Yes; Patrick Scannello, Yes; George Schmincke, Yes; John Gary, Yes; Robert Neall, Yes; Elizabeth Smith, Yes.
Southern Maryland: John Parlett, Yes; Ernest Bell, Yes; John Slade, Yes; Thomas Rymer, No; Samuel Linton, Yes; Michael Sprague, Yes.
Baltimore County: Lawrence LaMotte, No; Michael Collins, Yes; R. Terry Connelly, Yes; Michael H. Weir, Yes; John Arnick, no vote; Louis DePazzo, Yes; Robert Staab, Yes; Dale Anderson, Yes; Joseph Bartenfelder, Yes; William Burgess, Yes; Donald Hughes, No; Thomas Kernan, No; Martha Klima, Yes; Thomas Chamberlain, No; Wade Kach, Yes; Ellen Sauerbrey, Yes; Arthur Alperstein, No; Paula Hollinger, No; Theodore Levin, No; Kenneth Masters, Yes; Louis Morsberger, Yes; Nancy Murphy, No.
Eastern Shore: R. Clayton Mitchell, Yes; William Horne, No; Daniel Long, No; Richard Colburn, Yes; Ethel Ann Murray, Yes; Ronald Guns, Yes; John Ashley, Yes; Mark Pilchard, No; Samuel Johnson, Yes; Lewis Riley, Yes.
Frederick: James McClellan, No; M. Albert Morningstar, Yes; Thomas Hattery, No; George Littrell, No.
Harford: William Cox, Yes; Barbara Kreamer, No; Eileen Rehrmann, No; William Clark, Yes; Joseph Lutz, Yes.
Baltimore City: Benjamin Cardin, No; Elijah Cummings, No; Ruth Kirk, No; Larry Young, No; Mary Adams, No; Ralph Hughes, No; Howard Rawlings, No; Margaret Murphy, No; Nathaniel Oaks, No; Wendell Phillips, No; James Campbell, No; Samuel Rosenberg, No; Gerard Curran, Yes; Henry Hergenroeder, Yes; Charles Bucky Muth, Yes; Curt Anderson, No; Dennis McCoy, No; Anne Perkins, No; Clarence Davis, No; John Douglass, No; Hattie Harrison, No; Anthony DiPietro, Yes; Raymond Dypski, Yes; Amer Joe Miedusiewski, Yes; R. Charles Avara, No; Joseph O'Malley, Yes; Paul Weisengoff, Yes.
Western Maryland: Peter Callas, No; Donald Munson, Yes; Paul Muldowney, Yes; William Byrnes, Yes; W. Timothy Finan, Yes; Casper Taylor, Yes; George Edwards, Yes.
Carroll: V. Lanny Harchenhorn, Yes; Richard Dixon, Yes; Richard Matthews, Yes.
Howard: Virginia Thomas, No; William Bevan, No; Susan Buswell, No; Edward Kasemeyer, No; Robert Kittleman, No.