News Abortion

20-Week Bans, Ultrasound Requirement Introduced in Maryland

Nina Liss-Schultz

Two bills that would outlaw abortion after 20 weeks' gestation have been introduced in Maryland this year, adding to the list of states attempting to pass such bans this legislative session.

Two bills that would outlaw abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation have been introduced in Maryland this year, adding to the list of states attempting to pass such bans this legislative session.

Maryland is the latest state dominated by Democratic majorities to see a 20-week abortion ban proposed this year.

HB 492, introduced last week, would make abortion illegal after 20 weeks due to the stated belief that a fetus can feel pain starting at that time. The “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which has been the ban of choice this legislative session, shares its name with similar bills introduced this year across the country, including in South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Oregon.

A “fetal pain” 20-week ban is also expected to be introduced in Ohio, where a prominent anti-choice organization has identified it as a priority this legislative session.

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Bills of the same name passed last week in the GOP-controlled South Carolina and West Virginia houses.

A second abortion ban, SB 511, though not identical to HB 492, would also outlaw the procedure after 20 weeks.

The “Women’s Late-Term Pregnancy Health Act” was introduced in early February by state Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick), who writes in the bill that, in addition to evidence suggesting fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks, abortion becomes relatively less safe for the pregnant person after 20 weeks post-fertilization.

Therefore, Hough wrote, the procedure should be banned altogether after 20 weeks to protect the health of the pregnant person.

A study released in December showed that “major complications” after legal abortion care are extremely rare, and that overall, legal abortion care has a “very low complication rate.” A press release released alongside the study’s journal publication compared the safety of legal abortion care to that of colonoscopy.

The “fetal pain” argument used in both HB 492 and SB 511 rests on evidence that is disputed by experts in the medical community, including the American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

In addition to the 20-week bans, anti-choice Maryland lawmakers also introduced a bill that would require physicians to show a pregnant person seeking an abortion an active image of the fetus or embryo through an ultrasound, if one is performed.

SB 158, introduced in January by state Sen. Bryan Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel), wouldn’t require that an ultrasound be performed, but it would require that when one is performed the pregnant person be given the opportunity to view the images.

Both chambers of the Maryland legislature are majority Democratic. Newly elected Gov. Larry Hogan is a Republican.

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