A coalition of lawmakers on both sides of the abortion debate joined today to petition Gov. Harry Hughes to include an additional $3.2 million for family planning, family support and adoption services in the budget he presents to the General Assembly next month.
Leaders in the legislature's annual debate over abortion rights who have fought each other for 11 years over whether and to what extent state funds should pay for abortions for poor women, persuaded 133 lawmakers, more than two-thirds of the legislature, to sign the letter.
It said in part that although "few other issues raise such compelling personal and emotional conflicts . . . we cannot let our divergent views on abortion obscure the other serious health and societal issues affecting young and poor women of child-bearing age."
The letter made no mention of the annual debate over Medicaid funding, but state Del. Timothy Maloney (D-Prince George's), a leading abortion opponent, said "as a practical matter, the issue is stalemated."
State law now prohibits the use of state funds for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, genetic abnormality of the fetus, or where documented evidence exists of a danger to the mother's physical or mental health if pregnancy is continued.
The letter to Hughes highlighted the local aspects of the current national crisis in teen-age pregnancies, noting that 8,500 babies were born to adolescents, most of them unmarried, in Maryland in 1983.
The signers recommended additional funds to expand family planning services; increase the number of family support centers, fund a neighborhood counseling program aimed at young mothers initiated last year; create a state adoption center to help pregnant teen-agers; and expand Medicaid eligibility for prenatal and postnatal care for poor women.
Hughes' chief legislative aide, Benjain Bialek, said the governor will put "significant" funds into these areas, but said no decision has been made on specific amounts.