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Freedom of Choice Act

Maryland has created additional protections for reproductive rights by adding an affirmative right to choose into its state law. This law ensures women’s access to pre-viability abortions and would remain in effect even if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

“[T]he state may not interfere with the decision of a woman to terminate a pregnancy: (1) Before the fetus is viable; or (2) At any time during the woman’s pregnancy, if [t]he termination procedure is necessary to preserve the life or health of the woman; or . . . [t]he fetus is affected by a genetic defect or serious deformity or abnormality.” Md. Code Ann., Health-Gen. § 20-209 (Enacted 1991).

 

Low-Income Women’s Access to Abortion

Maryland prohibits public funding for abortion for women eligible for state medical assistance for general health care unless: (1) continuation of the pregnancy is likely to result in the woman’s death; (2) the woman is a victim of rape, incest, or a sexual offense reported to a law enforcement, public health, or social agency; (3) the fetus is affected by a genetic defect or serious deformity or abnormality; (4) abortion is medically necessary because there is substantial risk that continuation of the pregnancy could have a serious and adverse effect on the woman’s present or future physical health; or (5) continuation of the pregnancy is creating a serious effect on the woman’s mental health and if carried to term there is substantial risk of serious or long lasting effect on the woman’s future mental health. S.B. 125, 2004 Reg. Sess., 418th Gen. Assem. (Md. 2004); Md. Regs. Code tit. 10, §§ 09.02.04(G), 09.34.04(A)(5), 09.34.04(B)(2).

Protection Against Clinic Violence

A person who physically detains an individual or obstructs, impedes, or hinders an individual’s passage, with the intent to prevent the individual from entering or exiting a medical facility, is guilty of a misdemeanor and may be fined up to $1000, imprisoned for up to 90 days, or both. Md. Code Ann., Crim. § 10-204 (Enacted 2002).

Question 6

Many Marylanders will remember Question 6, when 62% of voters in a statewide referendum affirmed a woman’s legal right to choice. The language of Question 6 read:

Revises Maryland’s abortion law to prohibit state interference with woman’s abortion decision before fetus is viable, or, under certain conditions, at any time and to provide certain exceptions to the requirement that a physician notify an unmarried minor’s parent or guardian prior to minor’s abortion; repeals pre-abortion information requirements about abortion alternatives; repeals some, and clarifies other, provisions related to abortion referral; requires that abortions be performed by licensed physicians; provides good-faith immunity under certain conditions to physicians performing abortions; authorizes the State to adopt abortion regulations; repeals certain penalty and disciplinary provisions related to the performance of abortions.

The passage of Question 6 codified Roe v. Wade in Maryland, making abortion legal even if the U.S. Supreme Court were to reverse Roe v. Wade. Maryland is one of nine states that explicitly protects reproductive choice in state law.

The battle began in the General Assembly, where pro-choice legislators introduced a bill that would codify the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law and overturn the state’s restrictive 1968 abortion law. This would have protected Maryland women if Roe were ever overturned at the federal level. Unfortunately, the bill suffered a eight day filibuster in the 1990 Maryland Senate. In the following election, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland worked exceptionally hard to ensure more pro-choice legislators were elected. In the 1991 session of the General Assembly, SB 162 passed the Senate (29-18) and the House of Delegates (84-52). Governor Schaefer signed the bill into law on February 18th.

Anti-choice activists gathered enough petition signatures to force the measure onto the ballot, and in 1992, it appeared on the ballot as Question 6. A vote for Question 6 upheld the law, and NPCM was part of broad coalition of pro-choice and other groups called Maryland For Choice (MFC) that fought to pass Question 6.

On November 3, 1992, Maryland voters went to the ballot box and voted for Questions 6 by a wide margin, with more than 60% of voters in favor of enacting the pro-choice law. On its 20th anniversary, we celebrated the achievement of the Maryland for Choice campaign, and all the coalition partners, staff, volunteers, donors, and voters who worked to keep Maryland a pro-choice state. Were you a part of the Question 6 campaign? We’d love to hear your story! Email us at info@prochoicemd.org.

Insurance Coverage for Contraception

Maryland law requires health insurance plans that cover prescription drugs to provide equitable coverage for contraception.

What is required?
If a health insurance plan provides coverage for prescription drugs, it must provide coverage for any Food and Drug-Administration-approved prescription contraceptive drug or device, insertion or removal of such drug or device, and any medically necessary exam associated with the use of such drug or device.

To which insurance plans does the law apply?
Insurance plans, nonprofit health service plans, and health maintenance organization (HMO) contracts that provide coverage for prescription drugs.

Does the law provide additional protections for women?
Yes. Insurers may not impose a different co-payment or coinsurance for contraceptives than that imposed on any other prescription drug.

Does the law contain a refusal clause, allowing certain employers and/or insurers to refuse to provide or pay for contraceptive coverage?
Yes.

To whom does the refusal clause apply?
Religious employers for whom contraceptive coverage conflicts with their bona fide religious beliefs and practices.

What does the refusal clause allow?
A religious employer may require issuers of its health insurance plans exclude coverage for contraception.

Is this refusal clause overbroad, jeopardizing insurance coverage for contraception for women?
Yes. By failing to define the term “religious employer,” the law’s refusal clause inappropriately includes a wide range of entities that perform non-religious functions in the public sphere.

Does the law require the refusing entity to notify the persons affected?
Yes. An employer exercising a refusal clause must provide employees reasonable and timely notice of the exclusion.

Are there circumstances under which a refusal clause may not be exercised?
No.

Does the law provide a mechanism for women to obtain contraceptive coverage if their employer exercises a refusal clause?
No.

MD. Code Ann., Ins. § 15-826 (Enacted 1998).

Protection Against Clinic Violence

A person who physically detains an individual or obstructs, impedes, or hinders an individual’s passage, with the intent to prevent the individual from entering or exiting a medical facility, is guilty of a misdemeanor and may be fined up to $1000, imprisoned for up to 90 days, or both. Md. Code Ann., Crim. § 10-204 (Enacted 2002).

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We fight for a future that includes access to all reproductive health care no matter your zip code or employer. Maryland must lead the charge. Are you with us?