Chris Lange, FISM News
State lawmakers in Maryland voted Saturday to override Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of a measure allowing non-physicians to perform abortions. The “Abortion Care Access Act” establishes a $3.5 million taxpayer-funded training program to expand the number of health providers authorized to perform abortions, including nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. The measure further requires insurance companies to provide abortions without cost.
The two houses of the Maryland General Assembly passed the bill along party lines last month, with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposing it. Hogan vetoed the measure Friday, saying in an open letter that its passage would set back healthcare for women by “lowering the high standards of reproductive healthcare services” in his state.
“These procedures are complex, and can, and often do, result in significant medical complications that require the attention of a licensed physician,” Hogan wrote.
House Minority Whip Del. Haven Shoemaker called the bill “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,” according to reporting by Fox News.
“Madam speaker, this bill is too extreme, even for Maryland,” Shoemaker said, referring to House Speaker Adrienne Jones, a Democrat.
Republicans have criticized the provision which allocates $3.5 million of taxpayer money per year to be used to train more people to perform life-ending abortions.
Democratic House Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk praised the General Assembly’s decision Saturday on Twitter, writing, “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,” adding “It is imperative that we guide our policy by science.”
Del. Adriana Kelley, a Democrat and the lead sponsor of the bill, told CBS News that H.B. 937 ensures “that people have access to care, particularly people of color, particularly low-income people, particularly rural people.”
“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,” she said.
Maryland is one of several states that have seen lawmakers ramp up legislative efforts to either restrict or codify abortion laws ahead of the conservative majority U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortions in the U.S.
Last week, Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) signed a measure into law that explicitly denies any rights to unborn children and establishes abortion as a “fundamental right.” Meanwhile, Republican legislatures have passed laws restricting abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically around six weeks of pregnancy. Texas and Idaho also approved measures allowing private citizens to sue individuals who perform abortions after fetal cardiac activity is established.
A January poll found that 71% of Americans support abortion restrictions.