From the first time I immersed myself in Maryland General Assembly machinations, I learned that one subject never vanished: abortion.
It has been a constant source of heated controversy. I never understood why. I still am perplexed. Discussion consumes an inordinate amount of valuable public policy time. Relationships among legislators fray.
Due to recent action by the current House of Delegates and State Senate, legal abortion will be decided in a public plebiscite in 2024. Voters will vote on a referendum to determine if abortion rights should be incorporated into the state constitution.
If I could vote early, my vote would be resoundingly yes. It will not change. I am keenly aware that a large segment of the population would think differently, passionately so.
My reasoning is simple. The choice of an abortion belongs solely to a woman and her doctor. It does not rest in the hands of politicians, nor in the Catholic Church. The decision is intensely personal.
Moreover, abortion as part of public policy debate pales in comparison in terms of importance to discussion of the minimum wage, water quality, crime prevention, poverty reduction, quality education and climate control.
The referendum will elicit strong, well-organized opposition from the Catholic and evangelical churches as well as a slew of interest groups. Equally adamant proponents of abortion will state their arguments. Verbal combat will be relentless.
The unfortunate Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs. Wade, in June 2021, placing abortion rights under the purview of the states, catalyzed the Maryland General Assembly to enthrone abortion in the state constitution should voters approve the referendum.
If the referendum, which undoubtedly will prompt non-stop advocacy on both sides, is approved, maybe abortion rights will no longer stir strong emotions in our state. For me, that would be a welcome relief. The citizenry could invest its energy and passion in other causes.
I spend little or no time debating the age-old conundrum about when an embryo becomes a person. This comment will shock abortion opponents. What I concentrate on is choice; an abortion represents a clear statement of a woman’s desire to be a mother. Should a woman have no wish to be a parent—indicative of her disinclination to provide love and care—then she ought to have the right to abort prior to “fetal viability,” except in consultation with a doctor when a woman’s life is in danger, as stipulated in Maryland law.
Ideally a woman feels capable of raising a child with abundant, unconditional love. That obviously is not the case in multiple instances. Giving birth to a child and putting him or her up for adoption is also a sensible option too. I have met people who were adopted, led wonderful lives and then sought out their birth parents. The result is heartwarming in most cases.
My attitude toward pregnancy is far from being cavalier. Parenting is difficult and demanding. Should a woman choose an abortion to avoid the responsibility of raising a child, then I respect that decision.
Chances for an unloved child to lead a satisfying life are minimal.
I applaud the state legislature for placing the terribly fraught subject of abortion before the public as a referendum. The decibel level of the arguments for and against a woman’s right will be deafening. I would hope that abortion will be protected once and for all in Maryland through a constitutional amendment.
We can clear the public arena for other substantive topics and dialogue.
We can protect a woman’s reproductive rights.
We can respect, rather than demean a woman’s decision.
We can ensure that freedom of choice is a valued right as a Marylander.
We can sustain a tolerant, compassionate culture in our state.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. After 44 years in Easton, Howard and his wife, Liz, moved in November 2020 to Annapolis, where they live with Toby, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel who has no regal bearing, just a mellow, enticing disposition.
Letters to Editor
John Fischer says
I am not Catholic, Howie, not a member of an evangelical church, not a politician and am not associated with a pro or con “interest group” in this matter.
I’m fine with abortion up to a beating heart but I cannot get past that. And I think many Americans, also not members of the groups you cite, feel the same.
I see you don’t want to spend time debating that “age old conundrum” of when life begins. But isn’t that question important to the debate? Isn’t that question important to you? Really?
Deirdre LaMotte says
It is a medical fact that the so called “heartbeat” forced birthers keep spewing is not a heart beat. It is electrical activity.
Millions of “babies” are miscarried every year. A 15 week old fetus, not the size of a blueberry, cannot survive outside the womb and it can be an extremely serious health risk to the woman carrying it. Even with modern medicine a fetus given birth at 20 weeks has almost no chances of survival and will suffer deleterious health effects for its entire life.
Most women who have abortions already have children . Most are struggling to care for the children they have. Birth
control fails, I should know. The vast majority of abortions happen, as I said , when the embryo is the size of a lentil and is incapable of feeling pain for many more weeks. In the days when abortion was banned, 20 to 25 percent of women died due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth.
Anyone who would force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term when for whatever reason she does not want to, is forcing that woman into servitude by exploitation of and usurping a women’s right to determine her fate via controlling HER reproductive system.
And if anyone believes outlawing abortion would stop them from happening, they are more stupid than Trump and Clarence Thomas combined. Yeah, I know, a pretty low bar.
Using the power of the State to enforce religious doctrine at its most pernicious.
Lyn Banghart says
Thank you! Totally agree! I also have hopes that “we can sustain a tolerant, compassionate culture in our state.” In fact, I wish that for the whole country knowing full well it will never happen.
Ellen Sheridan Walsh says
Beautifully, medically compassionately and truthly stated. Thank you for your intelligent response.