The Maryland House of Delegates Chamber. Photo by Matt Bush/WYPR.

A bill to create a constitutional amendment enshrining the right to an abortion in the state made it one step closer to the House floor as lawmakers listened to opinions from the public on the issue.

The House Health and Government Operations Committee held a hearing on the bill Tuesday. While the usual arguments around abortion prevailed, a smaller more government-minded debate bubbled up as well.

At the crux of the amendment is the idea of reproductive autonomy as an inalienable right. The amendment prohibits “the state from, directly or indirectly, denying, burdening, or abridging the right unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.”

Proponents of the amendment feel that autonomy shouldn’t be swayed by the whim of partisan officials and that an amendment safeguards that right more than a law.

“The bill in front of us provides Marylanders with the highest possible level of protection for reproductive freedom,” said Karen Nelson, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland. “In the simplest terms, the bill ensures the right of individuals to make and effectuate their own decisions about their own health care, abortion, birth control and whether to end a pregnancy.”

However, opponents of the bill argue that the amendment is too broad, fearing that the amendment grants too much leeway for controversial reproductive procedures.

“This amendment would take the power to regulate abortion away from the elected officials,” said Barb Pivec, a member of the Maryland Federation of Republican Women. “This bill appears to include again, allowing minors under the age of 21 to consent to surgery to remove their reproductive organs for gender reassignment.”

A legal minor in the U.S. are individuals under the age of 18 years old, not younger than 21 years old.

Read more (and listen) at WYPR.

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