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Md. To Consider Banning Interstate Abortions

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Maryland lawmakers will consider legislation to ban the sort of interstate abortions performed last year by a New Jersey doctor whose license has since been suspended.

Dr. Steven Brigham operated an abortion clinic in Elkton. New Jersey regulators suspended his license after finding that he was starting late-term abortions in that state, then ferrying patients to Maryland to complete the procedures in an apparent bid to skirt New Jersey's more restrictive abortion laws.

Delegate Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil, has introduced three bills intended to prevent anything similar from happening in the future.

One would mandate that an abortion begun in Maryland must be concluded in the state except during an emergency.

Smigiel's law office is half a block away from Brigham's clinic, and he said he was shocked to learn what was going on there.

"What we want to make sure is that if they're going to be doing this ... that they have certain procedures in place to protect the women," Smigiel said. "If you're going to start out of state, you should go to a hospital. You shouldn't go to some little room where the woman ends up having her uterus pierced."

Brigham's practices first caught the attention of Maryland regulators after a patient was hospitalized with a ruptured uterus and small intestine. Brigham was ordered to stop practicing without a license in the state.

Smigiel's other bills would require that abortions be reported to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and mandate that patients who suffer complications be transported by ambulance.

Another bill, sponsored by Delegates Adelaide Eckardt, R-Dorchester, and Pamela Beidle, D-Anne Arundel, would reclassify abortion clinics as freestanding surgical facilities, subjecting them to increased regulation. Current Maryland law allows for abortions to be performed at ordinary doctor's offices.

Smigiel is seeking co-sponsors for his bills, which he said he tried to craft narrowly to attract bipartisan support, but the prospects in Maryland's Democrat-controlled legislature are unclear. Maryland's laws have made it "a destination for late-term abortions," he said, and he doesn't expect that to change.

"These are reasonable measures that are being offered to prevent a very horrific result," Smigiel said.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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