Women’s Rights Legislation in Maryland [2018 Session]

Lawmakers in the Maryland General Assembly worked to pass multiple bills that support the state’s women from all backgrounds. Many of the bills have been discussed and argued for years, but just successfully passed this session. Legislative Agenda for Women listed seven of its legislative initiatives for the 2018 session. The list included the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act, Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act of 2018 and the Reproductive Justice Inside bill.

After 10 years of consideration and nine failed attempts, the Rape Survivor Family Protect has finally passed this legislative session. It will allow rape survivors to end the parental rights of their rapists. This is expected to provide comfort to the rape survivors and their children as it will protect them from harassment and unwanted contact. Although some say that the bill is not enough, it serves as a major milestone after years of fighting for justice and safety. Prior laws required survivors to consult with their rapist if the survivor chose to give the child up for adoption. For years, the legislature has been supported by an array of organizations, including the Catholic Conference and Planned Parenthood. The bill was deemed an “emergency bill,” which means it is effective immediately following Gov. Hogan’s approval. Maryland will now join the overwhelming majority of states in supporting rape survivors and leave only a few other states with an insufficient legislature.

The Reproductive Justice Inside bill, which was lead by NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland,  focused on defending the reproductive health of the state’s incarcerated women. Advocates who voiced support for the bill say that pregnant inmates often aren’t aware of their rights while in prison. The bill mandates that every correctional facility in Maryland provide pregnant inmates with necessary health services such as prenatal testing, postpartum care, access to child placement services, counseling, and abortion care. The bill also requires the facilities to provide free menstrual hygiene products to inmates. Maryland’s female inmates often would lack these basic hygienic products due to their price or availability. In fact, prisons have cut shipments of pads from 1,000 to 200 a month due to budget cuts. The legislation successfully passed both chambers and obtained enough votes to continue the potential veto of Gov. Larry Hogan, who has yet to comment on the bill. As a result, the bill is set to start benefiting women in Maryland’s correctional facilities this upcoming October.

The Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act of 2018 passed and will protect Maryland’s survivors of sexual assault. Currently, prosecutors are forbidden to present previous behavior that would let them introduce a defendant as a serial rapist. However, that will soon change and procedures will be permitted to present a defendant’s previous actions under certain circumstances. Such circumstances include a required 90-day notice, which requires prosecutors to notify that they are using such evidence at least 90 days prior to a case. Gov. Hogan is expected to sign the bill as he has shown and voiced support for like-minded laws. Maryland will then join the 37 other states that have similar laws already in place.

The bills proved to be a major success for women’s rights in Maryland. However, supporters have noted that there is still more to be done. It’s vital to keep fighting for further equality and fairness for all women throughout the state.