Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) in Maryland
Maryland has created additional protections for reproductive rights by adding an affirmative right to choose into its state law. In 1991, the legislature passed a pro-choice law asserting that the state could not interfere with a woman’s right to decide whether or not to continue her pregnancy within the boundaries established in Roe v. Wade.
Anti-choice groups collected petitions to force the measures contained in the new law onto the 1992 ballot with the intent to repeal the law, but Maryland voters overwhelmingly approved the law. This law ensures women’s access to pre-viability abortion services and would remain in effect even if Roe v. Wade were overturned. Sandy Banisky, Voters Reaffirm Stand Favoring Abortion Choice, Balt. Sun, Nov. 5, 1992.
“[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 protect the life or health of the woman; or . . . [t]he fetus is affected by genetic defect or serious deformity or abnormality.” Md. Code Ann., Health-Gen. § 20-209 (Enacted 1991).
Diana Philip, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland—suggested to Rewire.News that Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s position on reproductive rights has dual connotations. “I think that Gov. Hogan is in a position with his party that he can say he is not going to restrict abortion rights, but it also means that he is not going to make any moves or support efforts to advance abortion rights,” she said.
Philip pointed to two laws Hogan declined to sign during his tenure as governor. In 2017, he declined to sign a measure to reimburse Planned Parenthood for Medicaid funding should congressional GOP’s attacks on the provider prove successful. But Maryland law allows bills neither signed nor vetoed by the governor to go into effect, so it was enacted without his action.
As concerns around ‘Roe v. Wade’ grow, Democrat candidate Ben Jealous said he would safeguard abortion rights in Maryland. “Women who need abortions, get abortions. If we make them affordable, safe, and legal, we protect women,” Jealous continued. Unfortunately, he lost his race to incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.