Naturally the news came with an appeal for financial help, but the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance shared some good news on the pro-life front for next year. They announced that newly-elected Senator Michael Hough will sponsor the Women’s Late-Term Pregnancy Health Act (WLTPHA) in the upcoming session.
The bill is described by MPLA as having several purposes:
- Documents the undisputed medical risks to a pregnant woman’s health when an abortion is performed at 20 weeks gestation.
- Substantial medical evidence verifies that an unborn child by at least 20 weeks gestation has the capacity to feel pain.
- Based upon medical evidence of the risks to women’s health and the pain felt by unborn children, this bill will prohibit abortions at or or after 20 weeks gestation.
Without knowing the text of the bill, it sounds markedly similar to the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB283/SB34 in 2014) which went nowhere in the last two sessions. I doubt this bill would pass in Maryland, but there are purposes for introducing it in the upcoming session.
First and foremost, this bill surveys the lay of the land in the Senate. How many co-sponsors does it get? To use last year’s examples, the House version had 43 co-sponsors but the Senate bill had none other than its original backer, Senator Ed Reilly. Certainly there are more pro-life members there than just Senator Reilly but apparently no one wanted to step forward in an election year. That pressure is eased this time around.
And while the sponsors in the House for last year’s version included four Democrats, only one (Delegate Ted Sophocleus) returned for another term. Conversely, a handful of Republicans were not co-sponsors but of those only Delegates Wendell Beitzel and Mark Fisher came back. A companion cross-filed House bill could be important because there are now enough Republicans to force a floor vote if desired through the process of bypassing the committee it would be assigned to. Whether the WLTPHA is an important enough issue to use that option will also be a story that develops, especially if the fiscal portions of Governor-elect Hogan’s agenda have a difficult time getting a committee vote.
It will be many years before Maryland becomes as enlightened as other states about the physical and psychological hazards that freely available abortion carries. But the first step has to be made somewhere, and just as bad legislation sometimes needed to be introduced year after year to break down the barriers to passage, so do bills like this. Progress in Maryland for this year would be getting non-sponsoring legislators on record as to their support or lack thereof.