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Four decades after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion and more than two decades after Maryland voters upheld abortion rights, anti-abortion forces continue to fight.

The movement against abortion rights in Maryland is strong, said Nancy Paltell, associate director for respect for life issues at the Maryland Catholic Conference, “because the state is so anti-life.”

Anti-abortion groups planned to hold their annual march and rally in Annapolis on Monday night.

“We have numerous people, whether they label themselves pro-life or pro-choice, who are tired of all the killing,” Paltell said. “People are starting to say, ‘There has to be a better way. Can’t we help these women who have unplanned pregnancy, get them prenatal care, and help them become mothers or help them get their children adopted?’”

One bill on the General Assembly’s schedule would do that, Paltell said. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Katherine A. Klausmeier (D-Dist. 8) of Perry Hall, would require the Department of Human Resources to assemble educational material on adoption in Maryland for birth parents.

“We are working together to make it clear that pregnancy is not a disease,” Paltell said of the pro- and anti-abortion activists.

That bill is waiting for a vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

But there are also bills proposed that fall strictly on the anti-abortion side of the debate, like one sponsored by Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Dist. 2B) of Hagerstown that would ban abortions past 20 weeks, when the fetus is capable of feeling pain, he said.

“There have been many medical advances since 1973, when Roe v. Wade happened,” Parrott said. “We didn’t know much at all about the fetus. Now, we do know that at 20 weeks and older, the child can feel pain.”

Eight other states have similar laws in place, banning late-term abortions, Parrott said.

“You have abortions happening in Maryland now, all the way to nine months,” Parrott said, including a February late-term abortion in Germantown, after which Jennifer McKenna Marbelli, 29, of New York died of natural causes, according to the medical examiner.

Parrott said he has been crafting the bill for over a year, but wouldn’t say that he expects it to pass this year.

“We know it’s going to get a fair hearing,” Parrott said. “Legislators will get a chance to learn about the science and what’s happening to the child. The most important thing right now is to talk about this, to get the information to legislators and to the public.

“We’re not just talking about a blob. We’re talking about a little child. We should see changes in the future on this.”

Parrott’s bill is scheduled to be heard in committee Friday.

But Del. Ariana B. Kelly (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda, who serves on the Health and Government Operations Committee and is former executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, said that there’s not much of a future for bills like Parrott’s.

“We really dealt with this issue in the 1992 referendum,” Kelly said, referring to the ballot question, supported by a wide margin of voters, that upheld a General Assembly law to limit state interference in abortion. “That really settled the issue of whether we protect abortion rights in Maryland.”

Now, Kelly said she would like to see legislators focus on other ways to improve women’s health, like increasing access to birth control, health care, and family leave, measures that she said could prevent abortions in the long run.

“That’s a better use of our time and energy,” Kelly said. “Political bills like [Parrott’s] aren’t really addressing a problem that needs to be solved.”

hnunn@gazette.net