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  • Writer's pictureCenter for Local Policy Analysis (CLPA)

Understanding Maryland's Proposed Constitutional Amendment for Reproductive Freedom

Senate Bill 798 and House Bill 705, which were passed in the 2023 session of the Maryland General Assembly, would preserve the fundamental right to reproductive autonomy in the state's constitution. Any bill amending the State constitution is subject to a constitutional referendum, a direct vote by the electorate on a proposed change or amendment to a country's constitution. It is a democratic process allowing citizens to directly participate in the decision-making process regarding fundamental laws and principles governing their nation or state.  As such, at the General Election on November 5, Maryland voters will decide on a ballot question regarding whether or not this constitutional amendment will be approved.


Importance of the Amendment


This amendment is important in guaranteeing that reproductive rights are protected at the constitutional level in Maryland. By affirming the fundamental right to reproductive freedom, the state is attempting to protect individual freedom and equality, preventing any unnecessary government interference unless under extreme conditions.


Ballot Question Details


On Election Day, the ballot will present the proposed amendment with a clear and concise question to voters. The ballot will include the options "For the Constitutional Amendment" and "Against the Constitutional Amendment." The language on the ballot will be substantially similar to the following:


Constitutional Amendment text 


"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. The state may not, directly or indirectly, deny, burden, or abridge the right unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means."


Key provisions to remember:

  1. Fundamental Right: The language of the proposed amendment implies that everyone, regardless of gender identity, has a fundamental right to reproductive freedom. This right is recognized as a central component of individual liberty and equality.

  2. Scope of Reproductive Freedom: The amendment explicitly protects the right of individuals to end a pregnancy. This means that the right to access abortion services would be constitutionally guaranteed in Maryland. If the amendment is accepted, the only way abortion could be prevented in the state would be through a federal ban.

  3. State Restrictions: If approved, Maryland could not block or restrict reproductive rights unless there's a compelling reason and no simpler way to do it. Such reasons might include protecting patient rights or other ethical considerations.


Other dates to remember


It should be noted that the Maryland Secretary of State needs to finalize and approve the wording of the statewide ballot question by August 2. If they are proposed and approved, additional local ballot questions might be added in some counties.

 

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