State constitutional abortion amendment a political mobilizing device for Dems

Why are Maryland Dems so jubilant about expanding abortion access? | READER COMMENTARY
For The Baltimore Sun

Feb 16, 2023 at 11:10 am

by George Liebmann

State constitutional abortion amendment a ‘political mobilizing device’ for Dems
Maryland has a liberal abortion law, unaffected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which found no right to abortion in the U.S. Constitution. Nonetheless, some are urging a state constitutional amendment (”Maryland House speaker files bill to create statewide referendum on abortion,” Feb. 8).

Why? The state Constitution, unlike the federal, is easily amendable. The effect would be to delay, for perhaps two years, any legislative change of mind, pending a referendum. Repeal of the present law could likewise be petitioned to referendum.

The constitutional amendment is being sought as a political mobilizing device for the Democratic Party. It hopes that a 2024 referendum will stimulate the apathetic young eager to protect the hookup culture, insulating the party from any reaction against inflation, foreign policy mistakes, police consent decrees and the non-operation of public schools. This justifies reviving “culture wars.”

But this carries with it serious cost. The Dobbs decision introduces, for the unsophisticated, uncertainty as to availability of abortions. Its effects are likely to be benign. It has not yet dawned on some that Roe v. Wade proved to be disastrous social policy.

Abortion laws affect the behavior of not only women already pregnant but those not yet pregnant. In reliance on the abortion “backup,” many threw caution to the winds, both in choice of sexual partners and the taking of precautions, producing drastic changes in mores and generating an increase in the national rate of unwed motherhood from 5.7% of all births in 1970 to 40.1% in 2020; among Black births from 38% in 1970 to 71% in the later year. So-called “shotgun” marriages following unwanted pregnancies fell from 43% to 9%. Many who thought they could rely on abortion discovered — because of lack of means, procrastination, parental pressure, residual religious feeling, fear of not being able to have wanted children later or a maternal instinct to protect a moving fetus — they could not go through with it. Contrary to “reformers” expectations, an increase in fatherless children resulted.

Experience suggests that legal changes affect behavior “on the street.” When the welfare reform act of 1996 was passed, there was much doomsday-crying. But the teenage birthrate plummeted from 213 per thousand in 1990 to 65 per thousand in 2016.

Already, since Dobbs, there have been reports of reductions on the order of 20% in casual sexual liaisons. There may be a reduction in the percentage of children in fatherless homes to Western European levels, where abortion is not a constitutional right. The legislature should wait for and examine the new statistics before acting.

— George W. Liebmann, Baltimore

Posted in: Culture Wars, Health Care, Judiciary and Legal Issues, State and Local Politics, The Right, Welfare and Other Social

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