- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Hundreds of pro-life activists attended an annual rally at the State House last night, a large turnout that organizers say highlights the movement’s momentum — even in heavily Democratic Maryland — now that a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court will consider abortion laws.

“When Roe v. Wade does come down, we have to be ready for it,” said Stephen G. Peroutka, chairman of the National Pro-Life Action Center, referring to the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

A challenge to Roe v. Wade also was set up yesterday, when South Dakota Gov. Michael Rounds signed into law a ban of nearly all abortions in that state. The law is expected to take effect July 1.

Maryland’s Democrat-controlled General Assembly is not likely to consider legislation as drastic as South Dakota’s and would probably resist the most modest rollback of abortion laws if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

But leaders of last night’s rally, themed “A New Vision for the Future: Maryland without Roe,” anticipated the need for more pro-life lawmakers.

“We can no longer, as pro-life people in Maryland, accept [lawmakers] who for years have been there and have been on the fence about pro-life issues,” Mr. Peroutka said. “We need to elect pro-life supporters.”

He said that, short of outlawing abortions, laws are needed to provide parental notification when teenagers seek abortions and to regulate abortion clinics to ensure cleanliness and prevent the sale of fetal parts.

Last night, the activists marched from a Catholic church in downtown Annapolis, up Main Street to the State House, carrying candles and wearing sandwich boards shaped like stop signs that read: “Stop Killing Babies.”

Others carried white balloons, each with the message that read: “Smile, Your Mom Chose Life.”

The confirmation of Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. — both conservatives — has given pro-life supporters reason to believe the court soon may reverse Roe v. Wade.

If that happens, abortion likely will be outlawed in as many as 30 states, including Virginia and Pennsylvania, according to a 2004 study by the pro-choice Center for Reproductive Rights.

“Maryland may become a magnet state where people would come to seek abortions from other states that would outlaw abortion,” said John W. Nugent, chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, which operates abortion clinics in Baltimore and Annapolis.

The Maryland law that makes abortions legal and restricts regulation of abortion clinics was approved by about 60 percent of voters in a 1992 referendum.

Mr. Nugent said he expects the state would live up to its reputation as a liberal stronghold and retain abortion laws regardless of what the Supreme Court and other states decide.

“I guess I am a little bit confused by all this excitement,” he said. “The citizens of Maryland have spoken.”

Douglas T. Stiegler, executive director of the rally’s sponsor, the Maryland Family Protection Lobby, said the changes on the Supreme Court “energized” the state’s pro-life community.

Still, he said fighting abortion in Maryland will be an uphill battle.

“We don’t think the mind-set has been changed enough yet, and we are working on that,” Mr. Stiegler said. “It just takes education.”

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