A LITTLE more than a year ago, abortion rights advocates in Maryland made a decision to take their case to the legislature. They may be having second thoughts today. Maryland has now gone from a state with no restrictions on abortion to one requiring parental notice for women under 18. Here is how it happened: though the state imposed no barriers to abortion, placed no restrictions on hospitals or providers, and even used public money in some cases to provide services for the poor, Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights Action League and other groups were worried about the future. They reasoned that if Roe v. Wade were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, an old state statute, still on the books but unenforced since 1973, would be revived. That statute allows abortion only in cases of rape, fetal abnormality or if the health of the mother is at stake. Abortion rights advocates decided to forestall that possibility by seeking to replace the old law with a new one locking in the rights now guaranteed by Roe.
That effort tied the legislature in knots last year when proponents who had the votes to pass a strong bill were unable to stop a filibuster. They subsequently gained new allies as a result of the legislative elections, and Gov. Schaefer also finally took a stand in favor of the legislation. But even with these advantages, the bill's sponsors faced a filibuster threat again this year, and had to accept an amendment requiring parental notification. As these things go, it's not a terrible provision. Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller, who drafted it, worked hard to give as little as he did in the name of securing passage.
The new law, signed by the governor on Monday, requires women under 18 to provide notice to at least one parent before an abortion can be performed, although the requirement can be waived by a physician if he believes notification is unnecessary or unwise. We think 16 would be a fairer age, and would prefer the bill without the restriction. But it is also true that if Roe v. Wade is overturned some day, abortion rights will be fairly well protected in Maryland.