Campaign launches in support of Maryland constitutional amendment on abortion protections

BALTIMORE — A new group looking to jolt voters into supporting an amendment to the Maryland Constitution that would further protect abortion rights in the state officially launched Monday, kicking off a campaign for a cause that’s expected to energize many voters this year.

The amendment, scheduled to appear as a ballot question in the Nov. 5 general election, will ask voters whether reproductive freedom should be enshrined in the state constitution.

Democrats, who control the Maryland General Assembly, have expanded access to abortion both before and after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June 2022 to overturn national abortion protections. Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat who took office last year, has also been a staunch supporter of abortion access, including during a call with federal officials last week in which U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra called the state an “anchor” for abortion rights.

But abortion-rights advocates warn that those laws could mean little in future years under different leadership.

“Maryland is doing the right thing today, but we don’t know who our elected leaders are going to be 20, 30 years from now,” first lady Dawn Moore said alongside advocates and lawmakers outside the State House in Annapolis on Monday, the 51st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

The group she and others are rallying behind is Freedom in Reproduction Maryland, or FIRM, which will look to raise money and launch a campaign later this year that aims to support passage of the amendment.

“We’re launching the ‘Vote Yes’ campaign early to unify advocates across the state and ensure we have the time and resources to educate Marylanders on how critical it is to put reproductive freedom in our state constitution,” said Erin Bradley, who is chairing the campaign and also serves as the executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

A campaign opposing the constitutional amendment has also launched. Health Not Harm MD was set up by anti-abortion activists and lobbyists in the state. Its leaders have said the “vague” wording of the amendment could make it easier for children to access abortion care as well as some gender-affirming care.

The amendment, as approved by the legislature, would guarantee “that every person, as a central component of an individual’s rights to liberty and equality, has the fundamental right to reproductive freedom, including but not limited to the ability to make and effectuate decisions to prevent, continue, or end one’s own pregnancy.”

That exact language may not appear in the ballot question, which the Maryland secretary of state is responsible for crafting by Aug. 2.

The dueling campaigns will follow several others in states like Ohio and Kansas where, since the fall of Roe, voters even in heavily conservative states have protected access to abortions in their laws or state constitutions.

While polls have shown the majority of Marylanders widely support access to abortion, Moore referenced the last time abortion was on the ballot, in 1992, when the state was more divided.

“That was a real fight,” Moore said. “There were people back then in Maryland that wanted to limit our reproductive rights, and there will be people in Maryland tomorrow that want to limit our rights as well.”