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What does the overturning of Roe v. Wade mean for Maryland?

Roe v. Wade impact
Posted at 5:06 PM, Jun 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-24 17:35:35-04

The Supreme Court's overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision means at least 13 states are poised to ban abortions - but what will it mean for Maryland?

The short answer is: Not much.

Roe v. Wade was codified in state law in 1992, and the General Assembly actually expanded access to abortion care this past session, overriding Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of the Abortion Care Access Act.

The main impact on Maryland could be a potential influx of out-of-state visitors seeking abortions, as well as a renewed focus for Democrats on the abortion issue.

Maryland Del. Ariana Kelly, a Democrat representing Montgomery County, wrote the new Abortion Care Access Act; she also is former executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland.

The Abortion Care Access Act goes into effect July 1 and will expand the number of providers in the state who are trained to give abortion care, as well as requires insurance companies to provide abortion care with no cost-sharing and no deductibles.

Kelly said two out of three Maryland counties have no abortion provider, noting:

People are already driving long distances and having unneccessarily long wait times to get abortion access in Maryland, but we also already were seeing people flying here from Texas to receive care. We can rest assured that when as many as 26 states ban abortion, the number of patients we're seeing in Maryland is going to increase significantly. We are basically the southern-most safe state, so we're going to see a lot of patients from the South and the Midwest. I think about 26 percent of abortion clinics in the U.S. are expected to close as a result of the Supreme Court decision, so we're going to have to take care of their patients.

Matthew Mongiello, assistant professor of political science at McDaniel College in Westminster, agreed with that.

One of the most interesting things is whether we will start to see people come in from out of state to secure abortions in the state of Maryland. I'm thinking West Virginia, other close states to our south and west, you definitely could see that. And [in] President [Joe] Biden's message to the country that he just delivered, those were two of his strongest points, this idea that he's going to use the power of the federal government, of the executive office, to secure the right to travel, which is enshrined in various places - Article 4 of the 14th Amendment - as well as the right to ship and receive medications through the mail. So definitely, those are two places where political actors in the state of Maryland and nonprofit actors and private individuals may be impacted by this decision.

Although the abortion nationwide has been falling, Kelly said that is tied to the greater access to contraception. She noted that there is a possibility that the Supreme Court could permit the banning of contraception as well.

"There is a little kernel in [today's] decision from Justice [Clarence] Thomas that indicates that he would just as easily have us roll back rights to contraception, so it's worth noting that some on the Supreme Court want to go in that direction as well," she said.

Kelly also thinks abortion needs to be enshrined in the state constitution. Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones had moved that forward in the last legislative session, but it did not pass the Senate.

"We're safe right now. However, it's incredibly important that we elevate those protections. Right now, they're in statute. it's important that we put them in our state constitution," Kelly said. "We need to make sure that that passes this year so that the voters of Maryland can reaffirm their commitment to reproductive rights and elevate that right to constitutionally protected."

Since voters overwhelmingly supported the referendum to make Roe v. Wade state law back in the 1990s, Kelly is confident that a proposal to put it in the constitution would also pass. (Voters would need to approve a measure to add abortion rights to the state constitution.)

"It would pass in Maryland, absolutely, overwhelmingly. Marylanders support reproductive rights," she said.

Mongiello added, however, that it's hard to say if the political trends over the past 50 years will continue, now that Roe v. Wade is gone.

"Democrats had the status quo and all the energy was on the Republican side... and now there's stuff [for Democrats] to do," he said.

He noted that he saw several times in today's dissenting opinion, the justices "referenced and cited the [New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen] decision from yesterday [expanding New York gun laws], talking about how much this reading of the Constitution [to overturn Roe v. Wade] contrasts with yesterday's reading of the Constitution [on gun laws], and the case is really being made that this is a conservative political shift, and what you see is the three liberal members of the court sort of shifting and taking this position that the strong new conservative majority is developing a way to read the Constitution that always serves their political ends, and they contrast these two landmark cases that come out one after another, and I really do think it frames the future of the court."