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Md. Dems Pressure Hogan, Seek Political Advantage on Abortion

5/4/2022 | Josh Kurtz

Maryland Matters

Monday night’s leak of the draft Supreme Court opinion in the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion case continues to reverberate in Maryland politics. The leak, first reported by Politico, suggested that the high court is perilously close to overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that established abortion rights as the law of the land.

On Wednesday afternoon, Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, one of nine Democratic candidates for governor, sent a letter to Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), urging him to immediately release $3.5 million in funds that the legislature recommended spending to train abortion care providers as part of the state’s new expanded abortion law.

Just after Franchot pressed send on his letter to Hogan, The Washington Post reported that Hogan would not make available the $3.5 million the legislature designated for training programs this year. His spokesman, Michael Ricci, did not provide the newspaper with a direct explanation.

The abortion rights legislation that passed this year includes a provision for the $3.5 million to become available in Fiscal Year 2024, which begins on July 1, 2023, for the Abortion Care Clinical Training Program. But lawmakers also “fenced off” funding for the program to begin this July 1 — money that can only be spent at Hogan’s discretion.

In his letter to Hogan, Franchot said the impending Supreme Court decision to eviscerate Roe presented “significant danger” to “millions of women and families.”

“Upon the Court’s anticipated ruling on Dobbs, which would end the federal protections to abortion under its Roe decision imminent, abortion will be outlawed in 26 states — including nearby states like West Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky,” he wrote. “Demand for abortion care will dramatically increase as a result, and Maryland must and should be prepared to provide these critical services.”

Franchot said the funding was needed “to ensure that our state has enough health professionals to meet the expected increased need for these services.”

To spotlight his commitment to abortion rights, Franchot released a 30-second video this week that opens with his wife, Anne Maher, speaking to the camera.

“After decades of progress, women’s reproductive rights are under attack,” she says, as images of women protesting to preserve abortion rights flash across the screen. “Maryland can’t go backwards.” Maher goes on to say: “My husband Peter Franchot has been a strong supporter of abortion rights his whole career. When he’s governor, women can count on him to be their champion.”

Next, Franchot appears in the ad. “Reproductive rights are human rights,” he says. “We must take every action to protect them, and when I’m governor, Maryland will.”

Meanwhile, another candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, former U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr., released a statement Wednesday night criticizing Hogan’s decision to withhold the abortion training funding and using it as a springboard to warn abortion rights supporters against voting for a Republican candidate for governor this year.

“While Maryland is one of the states fortunate enough to have protected access to abortion in state law, electing a Republican governor in 2022 would put that in jeopardy,” King said.

He went on to reference a statement Republican Kelly M. Schulz, Hogan’s preferred candidate to succeed him, made on Tuesday, in which she stated her personal opposition to abortion but called abortion rights “settled law” in Maryland. That’s the same stance Hogan took in 2014, but this year he vetoed the abortion expansion legislation and is withholding early release of the training funding. The other leading candidate in the GOP gubernatorial primary, Del. Daniel L. Cox (R-Frederick), is a staunch foe of abortion rights.

“Our next governor must be fiercely and reliably pro-choice, and consistent and transparent about what they stand for,” King said. “The Republican candidates running for governor have made their stances on abortion clear.”

Cox on Wednesday was celebrating the victory the previous night of J.D. Vance in the Ohio Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Vance was put over the top by a late endorsement from President Trump, who has endorsed Cox over Schulz.

“The power of the Trump endorsement is the shaper of the GOP,” Cox said on social media.