Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, now running for the U.S. Senate, made his clearest comments yet on abortion, telling The New York Times on Thursday: “I support restoring Roe as the law of the land.”

The Republican candidate also told the newspaper that: “I think Marylanders know and trust that when I give them my word, I’m going to keep it, and I’ve protected these rights before. And I’ll do it again in the Senate by supporting a bipartisan compromise to restore Roe as the law of the land.”

Roe v. Wade was a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed abortion care nationwide. It was overturned by the high court’s 2022 decision in a case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Dobbs ruling spurred many states to restrict or ban abortion care, igniting efforts to restore Roe’s protections.

Depending on which party has control of the U.S. Senate after the election, Maryland’s next senator might face votes on either a national abortion ban or putting the Roe protections into law. Democrats currently hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, and a Hogan victory this fall potentially could help Republicans claim a majority.

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In Maryland, state law has protected reproductive choice since the early 1990s and voters will decide this fall whether to enshrine those protections in the state constitution.

Hogan has previously said that he is personally opposed to abortion. When asked by the Times how he would label himself, Hogan said: “Given the definition of what I’m supporting — women’s rights to make their own decision — I would say that’s pro-choice.”

Former Gov. Larry Hogan faces Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who would be Maryland’s first Black senator. Hogan is bidding to flip a reliably blue U.S. Senate seat red. The matchup is one of a few nationally expected to determine the balance of power in the chamber. (The Baltimore Banner)

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Angela Alsobrooks has made clear on the campaign trail that she supports access to abortion and insisted Hogan would not offer full-fledged support. Until now, Hogan had largely sidestepped questions about his policy positions on abortion.

The Alsobrooks team, her Democratic backers and abortion-rights activists had been expected to make reproductive health care a key issue in the general election between Alsobrooks and Hogan.

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“He will not support a national law to protect abortion rights. He will not oppose anti-choice judges, including nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, even in the wake of the reversal of Roe vs. Wade,” Alsobrooks said. “And given these positions, it isn’t all that surprising that Larry Hogan called abortion rights issues an emotional issue for women.”

Alsobrooks responded to Hogan’s latest comments with a post and video on social media Thursday.

“Larry Hogan has already shown us and told us he is not going to protect abortion rights,” she wrote. “And the Republicans he’d be joining in the Senate have made their agenda crystal clear.”

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Ahead of the election, one Hogan senior adviser said Democrats would be “shouting into the closet over it.”

At his own election night party, Hogan made a vague statement about abortion that stopped short of offering support for legalizing abortion nationwide.

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“Let me once again set the record straight tonight. To the women of Maryland: You have my word that I will continue to protect your right to make your own reproductive health decisions,” Hogan said Tuesday.

Hogan’s campaign team did not make him available for an interview on Thursday, but the candidate posted a follow-up statement on social media that read: “As governor, I protected the rights of Maryland women to make their own reproductive health decisions. I will do the same in the Senate by restoring Roe v. Wade as the law of the land. No one should come between a woman and her doctor.”

Hogan previously did not answer questions on his specific reproductive rights positions, including whether he would protect in vitro fertilization procedures.

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During his eight years as governor, Hogan was largely untested on abortion and reproductive health care.

In his final year in office, lawmakers presented Hogan with two abortion bills that he vetoed: One expanded the universe of health professionals who can provide abortion care and the other required more insurance coverage. He also held back money that lawmakers had set aside to train medical providers in abortion care.

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Lawmakers quickly overturned both vetoes and the next governor, Democrat Wes Moore, released the training money on his first full day in office.

The Maryland Democratic Party did not buy into Hogan’s comments on Thursday, quickly sending out a statement recalling Hogan’s actions as governor.

“Larry Hogan’s made clear: He’s a proud Republican recruited by Mitch McConnell to give them the majority to pass a national abortion ban and he has a long record of opposing reproductive freedom,” said Lindsay Reilly, a party spokesperson. “That’s why he vetoed legislation to protect abortion access in Maryland. He’s not fooling anyone with this weak attempt to cover up the threat he poses to a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.”

In clarifying his position on abortion, Hogan is tackling one of the issues that’s at the top of voters’ minds when they think about the U.S. Senate.

Though Hogan is popular — he had a 63% favorability rating in a spring poll from Goucher College and The Baltimore Banner — he starts the general election campaign at a disadvantage in blue Maryland. He won his two elections as governor by building a coalition of nearly all Republicans, many independents and a portion of Democrats.

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In that poll, 60% of all voters and 73% of Democrats said that abortion would be a major factor in determining which candidate they’ll vote for. Among Democrats, abortion was slightly behind crime, guns, the economy and health care as a major issue.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct former Gov. Larry Hogan’s favorability rating, and the percentages of voters who consider abortion a major issue.

Pamela Wood covers Maryland politics and government. She previously reported for The Baltimore Sun, The Capital and other Maryland newspapers. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, she lives in northern Anne Arundel County.

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