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Abortion Rights Groups Scramble to Derail Hogan Nominee to State Board

Personnel matters have been the source of increasing rancor between Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Democratic legislators in recent days. To wit: the Senate Executive Nominations Committee rejecting the governor’s choice for state Planning secretary, Wendi Peters; Hogan’s harsh criticism of Democrats for bottling up his nomination of Dennis Schrader to become secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; the withdrawal last week of Brandon Cooper, who had been picked to serve on the state Board of Education; and Democratic outrage over the recent firing of Brenda Davis, who led the crab management program at the Department of Natural Resources for many years.

Now, another tempest is brewing over a Hogan nominee to the Maryland Board of Physicians, a licensing and disciplinary board under the aegis of the state health department.

Abortion rights groups began scrambling on Tuesday to defeat Hogan’s pick of Day Gardner to serve on the 22-member board. Gardner, whose nomination cleared the Senate panel on a 12-3 vote Monday despite sharp questioning from some Democrats, is founder and president of the National Black Pro-Life Union.

Diana Phillips, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, called Gardner’s nomination “unacceptable” in a statement on Tuesday.

“We must do all we can to stop this appointment and we expect that any Senator who claims to support reproductive freedom will vote against this extreme nomination,” Phillips said.

Gardner’s nomination is expected to hit the Senate floor on Friday.

NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and the Women’s Law Center of Maryland began circulating material to senators Tuesday outlining some of Gardner’s activities around the country in the anti-abortion movement. They charged that she has, among other things, attempted to strip the licenses of physicians who have performed abortions.

In an account of Gardner’s confirmation hearing in The Washington Post, the nominee conceded as much, saying she believes “any doctor who performs abortions and harms people probably should have their licenses revoked or be investigated.” Gardner, the newspaper reported, also pushed back against the notion that there ought to be a litmus test on abortion for nominees to the physicians board.

The homepage National Black Pro-Life Union’s website maintains that “abortion is the number one killer of black Americans,” and features an essay by Gardner in which she seeks to equate the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s crusade for racial equality to the anti-abortion movement.

“I worry that many of us in the black community have forgotten what the struggle was all about. In our quest for higher education, bigger houses, better jobs and flashier cars … are we closing our eyes to the fact that more than a thousand of our children continue to die each day by the horrible practice of abortion?” she writes. ““These children are denied their most basic human right – a right to life. Their civil rights trampled, their precious little bodies discarded like dung. What about the dream Dr. King so proudly worked for, marched for and ultimately died for? Sadly, when he died much of the ‘dream’ died with him.”

Whether the abortion rights advocates can stop Gardner’s nomination on the Senate floor is very much an open question. Some Democratic senators oppose abortion rights and many have active anti-abortion constituencies.

As the 2018 election grows nearer, Senate leaders generally have tried to be protective of conservative and moderate Democrats who represent districts that Hogan carried.

During the Executive Nominations Committee hearing Monday, eight Democrats voted for Gardner’s nomination: committee Vice Chairwoman Delores Kelley, Senate President Mike Miller, and Sens. Jim Brochin, Ulysses Currie, Ed DeGrange, Ed Kasemeyer, Jim Mathias and Mac Middleton. Three Democrats opposed her confirmation: Chairman Bill Ferguson and Sens. Rich Madaleno and Nathaniel McFadden.

Four Democrats did not vote, while all four Republicans on the panel supported Gardner’s nomination.

 

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