Dem lawmakers in Maryland override governor’s veto, allow non-doctors to perform abortions

On Saturday, Maryland’s abortion laws—already some of the most liberal in the country—just got a whole lot more radical.

The state’s house and senate decided to override the veto of Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan to pass the bill, H.B. 937, a radical piece of legislation that creates an “Abortion Care Clinical Training Program” in Maryland’s Department of Health.

The bill will compel the state’s governor to set aside $3.5 million in annual funding to sustain the program, which among other things aims to “ensure that there are a sufficient number of health professionals to provide abortion care.” In practical terms, this means changing Maryland’s law so it is legal for professionals other than trained doctors to perform abortions.

The bill’s passage comes before the upcoming Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a widely-anticipated ruling that is expected to overturn the controversial Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey decisions that enshrined abortion as the law of the land.

“Thank you so much to my House colleagues for voting to override the Governor’s veto on my legislation to protect our public health officials from undue political influence,” gushed Democratic House Delegate Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk in a tweet. “It is imperative that we guide our policy by science.”

In what way science informed the policy wasn’t exactly clear.

The bill sailed through its passage last month by both houses of the Maryland General Assembly on strictly party-line votes. Gov. Hogan, meanwhile, had vetoed the bill on Friday, citing concerns that it drastically diminished the state’s standards for health care.

“House Bill 937 endangers the health and lives of women by allowing non-physicians to perform abortions,” he wrote in a statement announcing his veto. “The bill risks lowering the high standard of reproductive health care services received by women in Maryland. These procedures are complex, and can, and often do, result in significant medical complications that require the attention of a licensed physician…The only impact that this bill would have on women’s reproductive rights would be to set back standards for women’s health care and safety.”

Hogan’s veto triggered immediate override votes, with the state’s House voting to override the veto 90-46, and the Senate doing the same 29-15. Both votes fell out along party lines.

“Madam Speaker, this bill is too extreme, even for Maryland,” the Republican House minority whip, Delegate Haven Shoemaker, said in remarks addressed to Adrienne Jones, the House Speaker. He went on to observe that the abortion bill was “the most radical expansion of abortion in Maryland’s history in a state that already has some of the most liberal abortion laws in the country.”

For their part, the Democrats were highly pleased with the bill’s passage.

“It is making sure that people have access to care, particularly people of color, particularly low-income people, particularly rural people,” Delegate Ariana Kelly, the lead sponsor of the bill, told CBS News. “We know that physician-only restrictions exacerbate health inequalities, and we are trying to reduce health inequalities in the state of Maryland with this bill.”

But she also addressed what is likely the real motivation behind the radical legislation: the sense of an impending sea-change in the nation’s abortion laws. “In this context, it’s very important that we keep in mind that the strategies that this bill is using is ensuring that people can access the care that they need, when they need it, no matter what happens with the rest of the country—no matter what happens with the Supreme Court.”

And therein lies the real issue. If the Supreme Court does overturn Roe this summer, it’s a safe bet that many Democratic states will be looking to Maryland’s legislation, as well as the radical efforts of other states like Colorado, as a model for how to salvage their cherished abortion laws.


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Todd Jaquith


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