ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan won't grant a request by the state's comptroller on Wednesday to immediately make $3.5 million available to pay for training to prepare medical professionals other than physicians to perform abortions when a new law takes effect this summer, a spokesman said.
Michael Ricci, the spokesman, said in a statement that the Republican governor "firmly believes, as stated in his veto of this partisan measure, that non-licensed physicians should not be performing these medical procedures."
"Suddenly releasing taxpayer dollars for this purpose would run counter to those concerns about setting back the standards for women's health," Ricci wrote in an email.
Comptroller Peter Franchot, the state's tax collector who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, cited a leaked draft this week of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion that suggested the court's conservative majority is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade — the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion.
"Given the significant danger the impending Court decision has on millions of women and families, I am calling on you to immediately release the $3.5 million restricted in the Fiscal Year 2023 operating budget to provide funding for abortion care training programs at community-based and hospital-based provider sites," Franchot wrote in a letter to the governor, who is term limited.
The comptroller said in a statement after his office was informed of the governor's position that he hoped Hogan would reconsider.
"We can afford to get this done now, and it's critical that Maryland remains a national leader in protecting women's rights, freedom and health care," Franchot said.
If the Supreme Court overturns the Roe ruling, at least 26 states are likely to outlaw abortions, including neighboring West Virginia, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights advocacy group.
"Demand for abortion care will dramatically increase as a result, and Maryland must and should be prepared to provide these critical services," Franchot wrote.
The comptroller called on the governor to release the money for training at community-based and hospital-based provider sites.
Ricci criticized the comptroller for raising the issue during the height of tax season as he campaigns in a crowded primary.
"When our office is receiving dozens of calls each week from frustrated Marylanders seeking (tax) assistance from the Comptroller's office, it is deeply concerning to see he is distracted and campaigning on the taxpayer dime," Ricci said.
The Maryland General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, approved legislation this year to expand abortion access by lifting a state restriction that only physicians provide them. Hogan vetoed the measure, but lawmakers overrode his veto.
The new law will enable nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician assistants to provide abortions with training. It also creates an abortion care training program with state funding.
The law mandates state funding for training in fiscal year 2024. The legislature also restricted $3.5 million for use in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, to get the training started sooner though the release of those funds will require the governor's approval.
Planned Parenthood of Maryland has pointed out in testimony before the legislature that Maryland already has a shortage of providers in rural parts of the state.
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