- Associated Press - Thursday, August 2, 2018

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - A leading Maryland lawmaker said Thursday that he will introduce a constitutional amendment next year to protect abortion rights in the state because of the possibility that a conservative Supreme Court could overturn or weaken federal abortion-rights protections.

Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch announced he will introduce the proposal in next year’s legislative session, which begins in January. If approved by the General Assembly, it will go on the ballot for voters to decide in 2020.

President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court has raised the possibility that a conservative court majority could weaken or overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which created a nationwide right to abortion. That could lead to state battles over what should and should not be legal. With the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who sometimes provided the decisive vote in support of abortion rights, Kavanaugh could give the court an anti-abortion majority.

“With the Supreme Court currently hanging in the balance and increasing hostility towards women’s reproductive rights by this federal Administration, we must continue to ensure that a woman’s right to choose is protected in the State of Maryland,” Busch, a Democrat, said in a statement. “An amendment to the State constitution will safeguard this important right so that it cannot be changed absent the will of the voters.”

Maryland passed legislation in 1991 to protect a woman’s right to abortion if the Supreme Court should ever restrict abortions. It was petitioned to the ballot, and voters approved it in 1992 with 62 percent of the vote. Although Maryland has that statutory protection, it could be subject to change by state lawmakers.



Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in the state, and the General Assembly is heavily Democratic. The speaker said he was confident both houses of the state legislature would approve putting the question on the ballot for voters to decide in 2020.

Busch, who is the longest serving House speaker in the state’s history and has been a lawmaker in Annapolis for 32 years, said in an interview that he remembers how divisive the abortion issue was in Maryland before it was put on the ballot and decided by voters in 1992.

“I just think the best way to deal with this is to put it on the ballot and let the citizens determine where it should be,” Busch said.

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