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Dobbs Comes to Maryland

The state and localities are wrestling with post-Roe realities.

President Biden Highlights The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law That Funds Replacement Of The Baltimore And Potomac Tunnel
Maryland Governor Wes Moore (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Dobbs decision brought an end to the federal regime of abortion-on-demand, with only a vague “mental health” standard previously limiting third-trimester abortions. Abortions are no longer available with certainty.

The screams that the decision provoked have been equaled only by those accompanying the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, with its time limits and work requirements. Yet when word got out that teenage pregnancy did not bring with it economic independence and 18 years of assured cash payments, the teenage pregnancy rate fell from 213 per 1000 in 1990 to 65 per thousand in 2016. 


No longer do Baltimoreans and Marylanders have occasion to decry three-generation welfare families. Yet it has not yet dawned on Governor Wes Moore of Maryland or Mayor Brandon Scott of Baltimore that the uncertainty induced by Dobbs may be a similar gift to Baltimore and Maryland in addressing their most serious social problem: family breakdown and the attendant crime and delinquency.

Each day shows us that Roe v. Wade was a social disaster. Contrary to the premise of Justice John Marshall Harlan’s concurring opinion that unwed motherhood would almost disappear, the percentage of white children born out of wedlock increased from 3.1 percent in 1965 to 27.5 percent in 2021; among black Americans, it skyrocketed from 24 percent to 70.1 percent. 

So-called shotgun weddings declined from 59 percent of unwanted pregnancies to 9 percent. Unimpeachable scholars, Professor Janet Yellen, now Secretary of the Treasury, and her husband, Nobel-winning economist George Akerlof, showed in a 1996 study that the change was due to altered abortion rules and resulting changes in mores, what they called "reproductive technology shock." 

The increased availability of contraception and abortion made shotgun weddings a thing of the past. Women who were willing to get an abortion or who reliably used contraception no longer found it necessary to condition sexual relations on a promise of marriage in the event of pregnancy...women feared that if they refused sexual relations they would lose their partners. Sexual activity without commitment was increasingly expected.

Many less privileged women, relying on the new-found right as a “backup,” discovered that—because of ignorance, procrastination, lack of means, parental pressure, fear of losing the ability to conceive, or a maternal instinct to protect the fetus—they did not want or could not obtain an abortion. For their consorts, the newly discovered right operated as a hunting license.


The Dobbs decision is thus cause for rejoicing. Situation ethics is no longer a rule of constitutional law. The ruling already appears to be inducing greater care in the choice of sexual partners, the use of precautions, and a reduced rate of unwed motherhood. The consequences of a 70 percent rate of unwed motherhood in certain populations may be invisible to privileged professionals and journalists, but even Baltimore’s unionized schoolteachers are highly aware of it.

Of course, the legislation that states enact must be drafted with a view to prudence as well as principle. Laws that are unenforceable bring the law into disrepute. Surgical abortions, denials of the purposes of medicine, were long condemned. Not so pills, whose use can be punished only with difficulty, a gift to the underworld.

Simone Veil, a Holocaust survivor and later president of the European Parliament, when sponsoring French abortion law reform as health minister in the Giscard government, urged "not allowing abortions to produce scandalous profits…. Foreign women will have to fulfill conditions of residence…. Information about birth control [is] an obligation, on pain of administrative closure, for the establishments where abortions are performed." 

Further, she advised that medical and social consultations and a waiting period be provided to ensure that "this is not a normal or banal act but a serious decision...the pregnancy can only be terminated early because … [of] intrinsic physical and psychological risks of terminating a pregnancy after the end of the tenth week following conception...When one knows that dentistry, non-mandatory vaccinations and prescription glasses are not or are only minimally reimbursed by the healthcare system, how can it be acceptable to reimburse a termination of pregnancy? Medical aid has been provided for, for the most destitute.... the law no longer forbids, it does not create a right to abortion."

Yet the responses of Maryland’s Moore and Baltimore’s Scott to Dobbs have been perverse, abandoning the erstwhile pretense that abortions should be “safe, legal, and rare.” Instead, they are now some sort of blessed sacrament, the subject not of tolerance but of promotion. 

As Baltimore’s own H.L. Mencken wrote nearly a century ago, "Nor is the moral virtuoso made more prepossessing when he takes the Devil's side and howls for license instead of for restraint. The birth controllers, for example, often carry on their indelicate crusade with the pious rancor of prohibitionists." But abortion law affects not only those already pregnant, but those not yet pregnant, now rendered more cautious by potential perils that lie ahead: economic burdens in middle age, loneliness when old.

Maryland’s governor has proposed a constitutional amendment that would sweep away the remaining feeble restrictions on third-term abortions—making way for, among other things, non-doctors to perform them—and enacting laws of dubious constitutionality precluding Maryland courts from honoring the subpoenas of neighboring states. The mayor proposes to stockpile abortion pills. He thus gives force to Mencken's prophecy that if there were a substantial number of cannibals in the electorate, politicians would promise them regular meals of grilled missionary. If assisted suicide becomes more fashionable, Mayor Scott will no doubt want to stockpile strychnine also.

Baltimore is to be rendered an abortion Mecca, a curious economic development decision given the failure of previous administrations to encourage financial institutions fleeing New York in the 1980s to relocate there and its active repulsion in the 1980s of immigrants, including those fleeing Hong Kong.

The efforts to undermine the policies of neighboring states are especially repulsive. General De Gaulle once wrote of pre-Roe America that "the central government and Congress normally confine themselves to larger matters: foreign policy, civic rights and duties, defense, currency, overall taxes and tariffs. For these reasons, the system has succeeded in functioning up to now in the north of the New World."

National legislation where public opinion is evenly divided will produce only continued dissension. In most American states, divisions are far from even, and those dissatisfied with each state's law will make up a much smaller portion of the nation's population. 

One must ask: How would Governor Moore or Mayor Scott like it if Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia were to offer inner-city Baltimore residents free bus transportation to the nearest Virginia gun shop in order to subvert the Old Line State’s efforts at firearms control? 

Baltimore’s vital interest in socializing its minority young is being subordinated to a vote-buying agenda promising short-sighted college coeds a moral climate fostering situation ethics and free love. As the post-Dobbs statistics relating to unwed motherhood improve, it is to be hoped that the governor and mayor will withdraw from their exposed positions.