ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Reproductive advocates are calling Maryland the southernmost safe state for abortion access after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade, triggering abortion bans in 13 states across the country.
Karen Nelson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Maryland, says they are ready if there is an influx of out-of-state patients seeking abortion services, but the state is currently struggling with a shortage of providers that can perform the procedures.
"We do not have enough providers to meet the demand that already exists here in Maryland. Two thirds of Maryland's counties do not have abortion care providers," said Nelson to WUSA9 during an interview following statewide pro-abortion rallies across the state.
Anticipating the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Maryland's General Assembly expanded abortion access by allowing nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and physician assistants to perform these procedures. The legislation also allocates $3.5 million each year in state funds annually to train these providers.
Governor Larry Hogan vetoed the bill saying it would set back standards for women's healthcare and safety.
Lawmakers overrode the veto, but Hogan is withholding the funding for the expansion.
Leading abortion rights advocate in the General Assembly, Del. Ariana Kelly (D-Montgomery) says the funds are urgent and is calling on the governor to act now.
"Governor Hogan has said he doesn't want to do anything to roll back women's access to reproductive healthcare, but by not releasing the money right now, that is going to limit people's access to reproductive healthcare, appointment wait times are going to increase, people are going to have difficulties finding a provider that is available," said Kelly after a rally in Wheaton.
In a statement to WUSA9, Hogan's office said:
Regarding the funds: no, the governor opposes weakening standards for women’s health.
Following the SCOTUS ruling, some democrats in Maryland, such as Delegate Joselyn Pena-Melnyk (D-Anne Arundel, Prince George's), say they are gearing up to codify abortion rights.
"What we would like to do next session is to place these protections in our constitution, and that is the next policy we will see," said Pena-Melnyk.
The law takes effect July 1, and if the $3.5 million are not released, it will roll over for the next fiscal year.