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Maryland Approves Sweeping Bill to Expand Access to Abortions

Maryland Approves Sweeping Bill to Expand Access to Abortions

In the most sweeping change to Maryland’s abortion laws in three decades, state lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday that would dramatically expand who could perform abortions, while forbidding most insurers from charging patients out-of-pocket costs for the procedure.

Maryland currently only allows physicians to perform abortions, a restriction that abortion advocates say leaves two-thirds of the state’s counties without a single abortion provider. The bill would let physician assistants, midwives, and nurse practitioners, as well as other properly trained medical providers, perform the procedure as 14 other states do. The abortion-access legislation was passed by Democrats on a party-line vote, and is one of a handful of contentious bills General Assembly leaders suspect might provoke a veto from Republican Governor Larry Hogan. As a candidate, Hogan said he was personally against abortion but access to the procedure was a matter of settled law in Maryland. He has not signaled what he intends to do about the bill.

Pro-life activists march in front of the US Supreme Court during the 49th annual March for Life, on January 21, 2022, in Washington, DC. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Maryland State Republicans had attempted to place restrictions on facilities that provide abortion, require mental health resources to be offered to women seeking abortions, and use the $3.5 million to instead bolster neonatal intensive care programs. Senate Minority Whip Justin D. Ready (R-Carroll) called the bill a “radical and far-reaching” policy in a state that already has comparably liberal abortion laws. “You don’t need this bill to stay way out there in what’s allowed in Maryland on abortion,” he said.

Maryland joins California, New Jersey, and other Blue states in expanding access to abortion as clinics prepare for an influx of patients from states outlawing abortions between six and fifteen weeks of fetal gestation.

The measure, which would also set aside $3.5 million to train providers who may have attended medical schools in other states that do not offer such education, is in direct opposition to the most restrictive anti-abortion legislation yet passed in states such as Texas, Mississippi, Idaho, and Arizona. And it would force insurance companies to cover the procedure without co-pays or deductibles, reducing the expense for pregnant people.

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