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Maryland Democrats push Hogan to reverse decision on abortion training

Governor says he is unwilling to spend tax money on training more medical professionals to do procedure

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has declined to spend public money to train new abortion providers. (Brian Witte/Associated Press)
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Outraged by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s refusal this week to spend money set aside to train new abortion providers, Maryland Democrats launched a campaign pressuring him to reverse course.

In letters to Hogan, statements to reporters and posts on social media, top Democrats have tried to lean on his sense of populism, imploring him to release $3.5 million they say the people who elected him want to see spent.

“You have committed to treating reproductive rights as ‘settled law’ in Maryland, and yet in the face of grave threats, you appear to be failing to protect these rights for Marylanders,” said a letter sent Friday signed by more than 80 state lawmakers.

So far, Hogan is unmoved. “This is just misinformation,” Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said in an email. The governor promised during campaigns he would not infringe on abortion rights even though he personally opposes abortion. Ricci said spending or saving the money would have no bearing on existing abortion rights.

“It would do nothing to affect or restrict these rights for Marylanders at all,” Ricci said. Hogan has said he believes it is unsafe for pregnant patients to get abortions from providers other than physicians.

This spring, when it appeared the Supreme Court was poised to strike down federal abortion protections, the Maryland General Assembly enacted the most sweeping change to the state abortion laws in three decades. The legislature, dominated by Democratic supermajorities, voted to remove an old prohibition that limited abortion procedures to only physicians.

The new law follows recommendations by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that medical professionals such as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physicians assistants can be trained to perform abortions.

Roe threat enlivens Maryland’s governor race

It also set aside $3.5 million a year to train more providers, which abortion supporters say will be needed to bolster an already insufficient network in the state. A majority of Maryland counties lack any abortion providers, according to the abortion rights research group the Guttmacher Institute.

Hogan, a Catholic who until this year had largely avoided taking any action on abortion policy, vetoed the bill. The legislature promptly overrode him. But through a quirk in the Maryland budget process, the only way to spend the money when the law takes effect on July 1 is to have Hogan approve it.

He said he will not do so in the days after Politico published a leaked draft opinion that said the Supreme Court intended to strike down constitutional abortion rights.

“There are serious concerns this program would set back standards for women’s health, and hastily rushing through this funding a year ahead of schedule would run counter to those concerns,” Ricci said, adding the money for the training was “tucked away in a side deal that we weren’t party to” and Hogan had never agreed to spend it.

The campaign to change his mind started with Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), a longtime Hogan ally who is now running to succeed him. Franchot appealed to the sense of pragmatism Hogan is known for, noting that if nearby states ban abortion, Maryland residents would also wait for services.

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Franchot wrote in a letter, “To ensure that our state has enough health professionals to meet the expected increased need for these services, and especially considering the majority of abortions are conducted by medication, we should immediately and safely train health professionals through programs with these funds,” adding the state could afford it, with over $200 million left in the general fund this year.

Ricci said Hogan has been consistent in his thoughts about the policy. “The governor firmly believes, as stated in his veto of this partisan measure, that nonlicensed physicians should not be performing these medical procedures. Suddenly releasing taxpayer dollars for this purpose would run counter to those concerns about setting back the standards for women’s health.”

Maryland allows abortion for any reason until viability and in several circumstances afterward. It uses state tax dollars to pay for abortions for Medicaid patients, policies that have been unchanged since a referendum in the 1990s and have public support. An October poll by Goucher College found 88 percent of Maryland residents say abortion should be legal.

The new law calls on all insurance companies to cover the full expense of abortions at no cost to patients. That provision, along with permission for an expanded network of providers to do abortions, takes effect in July even if the state training does not.

With Maryland politicians in campaign mode, many Democrats seized a moment to criticize Hogan on Twitter without appearing to try to persuade him. Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D), who lost to Hogan in the gubernatorial race in 2014, tweeted that Hogan “needs to listen to Marylanders and release these funds ASAP.”

But others implored Hogan to be on what they viewed as the right side of history. “I hope you will rise to this historic moment and rise above the politicized discourse by moving urgently to protect rather than restrict access to essential health care for all Marylanders,” Montgomery County Council member Tom Hucker (D) wrote.

Roe v. Wade and abortion access in America

In June 2022 the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, which for nearly 50 years has protected the right to abortion. Read the full decision here.

What happens now? The legality of abortion is left to individual states. The Post is tracking states where abortion is banned or under threat, as well as Democratic-dominated states that moved to protect abortion rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade.

Abortion pills: Abortion advocates are concerned a Texas judge’s upcoming abortion pill ruling could halt over half the legal abortions carried out nationwide. Here’s how the ruling could impact access to the abortion pill mifepristone.

Post-Roe America: With Roe overturned, women who had secret abortions before Roe v. Wade felt compelled to speak out. Other women, who were and seeking abortions while living in states with strict abortion bans shared also shared their experience with The Post through calls, text messages and other documentation that supported their accounts. Here are photos and stories from across America since the reversal of Roe v. Wade.