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Some Maryland politicians, candidates for governor vow to strengthen state abortion laws in wake of Roe decision

6/24/2022 | Hannah Gaskill, Sam Janesch

The Baltimore Sun

Growing concern about other rights

Michelle Siri, the executive director of the Women’s Law Center and a former board president of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, said that, while abortion remains legal in Maryland, Friday’s decision may have greater implications for other civil rights policy.

“You know, we feared for a long time that they’re going to be coming for birth control, for LGBTQ+ rights, for [in vitro fertilization], and Justice [Clarence] Thomas’s concurrence confirmed that,” said Siri, the lieutenant governor candidate alongside King’s campaign for governor, which has been endorsed by Pro-Choice Maryland.

Thomas wrote a concurring opinion released Friday in which he advocated for the court to reconsider other due process rulings that now protect access to contraception, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.

The Maryland General Assembly legalized same-sex marriage in 2012. The right to reproductive care — including birth control, fertility and abortion services — was encompassed in Jones’ 2022 bill proposing a constitutional referendum.

If it had passed, Maryland’s Declaration of Rights would have been amended to read: “That every person, as a central component of the individual’s rights to liberty and equality, has the fundamental right to reproductive liberty which includes the right to make and effect decisions regarding the individual’s own reproduction, including but not limited to the ability to prevent, continue or end their pregnancy.”

Asked if Maryland could withstand the potential for other civil rights to be stricken, Siri said: “It’s going to depend.”

“We have a governor who originally claimed that they weren’t going to take any position on abortion rights and then vetoed the Abortion Care Access Act and has withheld the funding for training new providers,” she said of Hogan. “So it really is going to depend on who’s in office.”

Siri added that it’s critical that the state enshrine access to reproductive rights in its constitution “and even then we still always have to be vigilant.”

Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair Will Smith, a Montgomery County Democrat who unsuccessfully sponsored a bill to give legal protections to clinicians and patients in 2022, said he has “always been in favor” of enshrining the right to abortion care in the state constitution.

Smith pointed to other recent ballot referendums, like one that made gambling a constitutional right and another that will likely legalize cannabis, “neither of which are of equal importance to the freedom and autonomy and protection of Marylanders’ access to health care and abortion.”

“This will be a significant issue in the gubernatorial race,” Smith said. “That should be under a microscope.”