As a Republican state lawmaker in a conservative district a decade ago, Kelly Schulz sponsored and voted for bills that would have restricted women’s access to abortions in Maryland.
But as a candidate for governor in a blue state as a landmark legal decision giving women that right appears poised to be struck down, she’s vowing a different approach.
“The laws that are in place right now, I will do nothing in my office to be able to change that,” Schulz said Tuesday when asked about her record in the House of Delegates and what she would do if she’s elected and the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
A one-term legislator who went on to serve in two cabinet positions under Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, Schulz is vying with three other candidates for the GOP nomination in the July 19 primary.
A “Maryland Personhood Amendment” she supported in the 2011 legislative session would have allowed voters to decide whether the state constitution should be amended to provide constitutional rights to people “from the beginning of their biological development.”
It was a relatively new strategy in anti-abortion efforts at the time, one that reproductive rights groups have said would ban abortion in almost all cases by considering “personhood” to begin at the moment of conception.
Schulz, speaking to reporters Tuesday night at a campaign event launching a Women For Kelly coalition in Ellicott City, acknowledged her record on the issue while making a distinction between her representation of a House district versus the whole state as governor.
“Things are different from when I represented my district in Frederick County,” Schulz said. “Personally, I am pro-life. As governor, I respect the law that was passed in the referendum in 1992 — 30 years ago — and the laws that are on the books that happen to be relevant today. And the Supreme Court ruling has nothing to do with Maryland state laws.”
The 1992 ballot measure enshrined abortion rights in state law. This year, in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, Maryland Democrats passed a law expanding women’s access by allowing nurse practitioners, midwives and other non-physician medical professionals to perform abortions. Hogan vetoed the Abortion Care Access Act, but the General Assembly overrode it.
Schulz has not said whether she would have vetoed the entire bill like Hogan did.
About 61% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted after oral arguments in the pending Supreme Court case. Maryland is among a group of states with the strongest net-support of abortion. A recent New York Times analysis of various polls show 63% of Marylanders believe it should be mostly legal, while 32% believe it should be mostly illegal.
In her single four-year House term starting in 2011, Schulz also penned a 2012 budget amendment that would have restricted the use of state money for abortion services.
Asked Tuesday whether she would be hesitant to fund training for abortion services, similar to the way Hogan recently decided not to expedite funding the General Assembly passed under the new law this year, Schulz said she couldn’t “talk about funding issues that are happening right now because those are relationships that happen between the governor’s office and the legislature.”
The “personhood amendment” failed to get enough support in a committee vote in 2011, while the budget amendment Kelly sponsored failed 45 to 83 in the largely Democratic-controlled chamber.
Among the few other House votes on anti-abortion legislation during her four years in office, Schulz voted the anti-abortion stance on each of them, according to legislative records on those votes compiled by Maryland Right to Life, an anti-abortion group.
“Her voting record says that she is pro-life,” said Diana Waterman, a former Maryland Republican Party chair who is leading Schulz’s Women For Kelly coalition. “However, if she is elected — when she is elected — governor, she will represent all Marylanders, much as Larry Hogan has. And they will support the laws of our state.”
Maryland Policy & Politics
Hogan has repeatedly referred to abortion as “settled law” in Maryland while personally opposing it.
Waterman, who served as party chair during Hogan’s first election 2014, said Republican voters have a wide range of stances on the issue, including some who “feel very strongly” that state laws should be changed.
Democrats, however, are expected to easily hold their large majority in the General Assembly under the next governor, and legislative leaders have pledged to protect abortion rights.
Schulz is pitted against three others in the July 19 primary — Del. Dan Cox, a defense attorney supported by former President Donald Trump, perennial candidate Robin Ficker and lawyer Joe Werner.
Cox celebrated the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion, saying in a statement earlier this month that Roe v. Wade was “faulty,” while suggesting he hopes the court follows through with overturning the 49-year-old precedent.
Cox sponsored multiple abortion-related bills in this year’s 90-day session that ended in April.
One of the bills would have prohibited physicians from performing an abortion if they detect a “fetal heartbeat.” Other states have passed similar bills to severely restrict abortion access as early as six weeks in pregnancy. Reproductive rights groups like Planned Parenthood have said they amount to a near-complete ban on abortion.