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by Fern Shen2:06 pmMay 17, 20220

With Roe about to be overturned, City Council seeks to fund support for abortion rights

Lawmakers approve a resolution calling on the mayor to set up a public fund to help people from Baltimore – and beyond – obtain reproductive health care services

Above: Council members Zeke Cohen and Phylicia Porter call for public funds to support Baltimore reproductive health organizations. (@baltimorefund)

Mayor Brandon Scott is expected to work with the City Council to establish a fund to support organizations that protect reproductive rights and health.

Councilman Zeke Cohen and fellow lawmakers made the ask in the form of a resolution approved last night by the Council in the wake of widespread concern as the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to strike down the Roe V. Wade decision that guarantees the right to an abortion.

“While everyone will be hurt by this decision by the Supreme Court, the Georgetown Prep crowd that Justice Bret Kavanaugh grew up with will be less harmed,” Cohen said, standing in front of City Hall last night.

Kavanaugh, from an affluent Montgomery County family, is one of five justices who cast preliminary votes to overturn Roe, according to news reports.

“The people this decision will most harm are struggling to get by in systems that weren’t built for them. They come from places where maternal mortality rates far exceed the national average. They come from coal country and the Bible Belt,” Cohen said. “They are Black and Brown. Black women are 3.5 times more likely to die from childbirth than white women.”

Proponents of the fund said it will be used to help local organizations expand their capacity to provide services including abortions, transportation and lodging for people from Baltimore and elsewhere in the country who will come to the city if Roe is overturned and abortion access in their area is curtailed.

“The recent Supreme Court decision divides states across our county and [will lead to] numerous restrictions on reproductive health care for women,” co-sponsor Phylicia Porter said. “Cutting some women off from the only health care that they know.”

As Porter spoke, Council members Odette Ramos, James Torrence and Kristerfer Burnett held signs that said, “Abortion is healthcare.” Councilman Ryan Dorsey held a sign publicizing the website abortionfinder.org.

Hogan Pressed to Release Funds

The resolution, approved unanimously by the Council last night, also has administration backing.

“Mayor Scott wholeheartedly supports the desire to protect women’s reproductive autonomy and ensure safe abortion access,” spokesman James E. Bentley II said.

Details of the support fund have not been worked out and no dollar amount has been identified

The Council resolution also calls on Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to release immediately the $3.5 million of restricted funds set aside to train organizations to perform abortions before doing so is required under a law approved by the legislature.

The new law allows medical providers other than physicians to perform the procedure, including nurse practitioners, physician assistants and midwives.

The Republican governor, whose veto of the measure was overturned by the Democrat-led legislature, has refused to approve early release of the money. A spokesman cited the same argument Hogan made in vetoing the measure: that only licensed physicians should be performing the procedure.

City and state lawmakers plan to push Hogan to release the funding given the Supreme Court’s imminent ruling overturning Roe.

“This is about the governor who likes to go on MSNBC and claim to be a moderate and say that he is the common-sense adult in the room,” Cohen said. “Well, guess what? The vast majority of Americans support reproductive health care.”

“Moment of crisis”

Also speaking out yesterday were representatives from Planned Parenthood and other organizations who anticipate receiving funds from the city.

Porsha Pinder, of the Baltimore Abortion Fund (BAF), said the funds are essential “in this moment of crisis.”

“We know the future is far from certain, but we feel ready to take it on with the strength of this city and community behind us,” Pinder said. “BAF will continue to fight for a world where abortion isn’t just legal – it’s accessible, affordable and de-stigmatized for all.”

“Our doulas go to the clinic and sit with people before, during and after their abortion care”  – Alyssa Klann.

Alyssa Klann, of the Baltimore Doula Project, said the organization provides care to people who are pregnant, experiencing childbirth and in their post-partum period. They serve people who are incarcerated, as well as others accessing abortion care in the city.

“Our doulas go to the clinic and sit with people before, during and after their abortion care,” Klann said.

“They provide a listening ear and a steady and calm presence in the midst of making a health care decision that has been so stigmatized and so fraught with politicization.”

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