By Jennifer Surface
Schrader, a Republican, said she takes issue with two glossy, color mailings that Democratic Party officials delivered to voters in Howard's District 13 Oct. 20 and 21 that say Schrader banned access to birth control through votes she cast in the Senate.
"This is outrageous," Schrader said at an Oct. 23 press conference. "If (Robey) wants to debate, that's one issue, but let's not distort or put fear into the minds of women. We don't need this junk, this crap -- that's what it is. It's not fair and it's not right to circulate lies."
Robey, a Democrat, said Oct. 24 that he had no knowledge of the mailings prior to this week.
"They positively are not from me," he said. "I knew nothing about them."
The mailings are from the Maryland Democratic Senatorial Committee, which includes an election slate of which Robey is a member, said Robey, who is finishing his second term as county executive.
Schrader accused Robey of hiding behind the slate to dodge responsibility for the ads. She also accused Robey of being insensitive to woman during his tenure as county executive and, before that, as chief of the Howard Police Department.
The two are facing off in the Nov. 7 election for the state Senate seat in District 13.
Bills at center of controversy
The controversy hinges on failed 2005 and 2006 Senate bills that sought to make emergency contraception, or the "morning after pill," available over-the-counter in drug stores.
Schrader said she voted against the bills because they included no provisions that the pills be sold only to persons age 18 or older, adding that she supports abortion rights.
"I have a consistent public record of supporting the over-the-counter sale of the 'morning after' pill to women 18 years of age and older -- not 12-year-olds, not 11-year-olds, not 14-year-olds," Schrader said. "That's ridiculous. I don't consider 12- and 14-year-olds women. They're girls."
One of the mailings depicts an apparent doctor or pharmacist speaking to a young woman, saying, "I'm sorry, but Senator Sandy Schrader says birth control is off-limits." The other stamps the word "banned" over pictures of packs of monthly birth control pills, which Schrader pointed out are not the same as the morning after pill.
Schrader said the ads are misleading and alarming to women because they imply that monthly birth control pills are illegal.
Robey said he is unsure if the ad distorts Schrader's record, adding that her votes against allowing the morning after pill to be available over the counter contradict her claim that she supports abortion rights.
"She claims she's pro-choice," Robey said. "Either you are, or you're not."
Derek Walker, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said the party stands behind the content of the mailings. He refused to say whether Robey had seen the ads before they were mailed.
Schrader: Robey insensitive
At her press conference, Schrader criticized what she called Robey's "long history of insensitivity to women."
She pointed to a 1995 police sting operation, aimed at massage parlors, in which Robey, who was then police chief, allowed officers to pay for and receive sexual massages as part of the operation. The sting netted 13 arrests, but charges against each of the masseuses were dropped in 1996.
Robey defended his officers, saying that they were forced to engage in the sexual activity to prove their cases.
In a Nov. 9, 1995 letter to this newspaper, Robey wrote, "Simply put, vice investigations are a dirty business. There was no 'clean and easy' way to conduct these investigations. ... While perhaps controversial in the eyes of some, the tactics which I approved in this investigation were legal, ethical and the most efficient means ..."
He echoed that defense this week, adding that he agreed with the then-county state's attorney's decision not to prosecute the cases after defense attorneys threatened to put officers and their wives on the stand to testify about their sex lives.
"I just wasn't going to have the families dragged into it," Robey said this week.
Schrader also referred to a May 1992 incident in which detectives doubted the testimony of a Dayton woman who said she was raped, after a lie detector test indicated she was being "deceptive."
A suspect was arrested in late 1992 in the rape of a Mount Airy woman. In 1994, the man police arrested pleaded guilty to the Dayton and Mount Airy rapes, and others.
This week, Robey said the woman's report included "unusual and bizarre circumstances" that "fit the pattern" of four other women who recanted their rape allegations after polygraph tests turned up "deceptive."
In rebutting Schrader, Robey also cited his support of the county's domestic violence and sexual assault centers and his appointment of women to high-ranking government positions.
E-mail Jennifer Surface at Jennifer Surface@patuxent.com