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Baltimore County officials promise to stand with women who travel to Md. for abortions

Following the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, some officials in Maryland, largely considered a safe state for abortion rights, are promising to stand by women who come to the state for abortion services. 

Two top Baltimore County leaders, County Executive Johnny Olszewski and State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger, announced Monday that they wouldn’t participate in the extradition of individuals in connection with other states’ abortion bans. 

Scott Shellenberger

Scott Shellenberger

“Baltimore County is committed to protecting the right of all women, regardless of where they are from, to access reproductive health care and safe abortion services,” the statement read. “County Executive Olszewski fully supports State’s Attorney Shellenberger’s position to not criminalize anyone who seeks abortion care in Baltimore County, and will continue to support and protect the HIPAA rights of anyone who receives medical care in our communities.” 

Currently, Maryland has some of the strongest abortion protections in the country, with state law guaranteeing the right to an abortion until the fetus is viable – typically around 24 weeks – and the majority of Marylanders in support of keeping abortion legal. However, efforts to enshrine the right to abortion into the state’s constitution have failed in recent years. 

Because of Maryland’s strong abortion laws, political and medical leaders believe the state will become a “sanctuary” to which women will travel to receive abortions as other states’ bans take effect. 

Women who travel out of state for abortions cannot currently be prosecuted for doing so, but many experts believe this could change. Several states are now looking to make it illegal, or, in some cases, much more difficult to travel out of state to get an abortion. 

Still, for the time being, it is very unlikely anyone would be extradited for having an abortion performed in Baltimore County, according to Mark Graber, a professor and scholar of constitutional law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. 

On the other hand, an individual who fled to Maryland after having an abortion in a state where doing so is banned could be extradited back to the state where the abortion was performed — and federal courts could require Maryland leaders to comply, thanks to a 1987 Supreme Court decision, Puerto Rico v. Branstad.

“So, it’s very clear – a doctor performs an abortion in Alabama. That’s illegal. (He) flees to Maryland — Maryland must extradite the doctor,” Graber said. 

No extraditions related to abortion bans have occurred yet, Graber said, as states’ bans are just beginning to take effect. Still, he does not believe such cases will be common. 

“If, after having an abortion, you flee to another state where abortion is legal, it would make far more sense to simply go to the state first,” he said. “Chances are, if you could afford to flee to Maryland, you could afford to go to Maryland to get the abortion.” 

Politicians around the country are taking similar stances to Olszewski and Shellenberger; Colorado governor Jared Polis signed an executive order stating that state officials could not help other states investigate individuals who had traveled to Colorado for abortions.

Marilyn Mosby and Aisha Braveboy, the state’s attorneys for Baltimore city and Prince George’s County, respectively, announced in late June that they would not “prosecute any person or healthcare provider involved in receiving, conducting, or facilitating an abortion regardless of any decision announced on the local or federal levels.”