BURLINGTON - Legislators in Vermont have passed new measures to enshrine unrestricted abortion access in to law at any time for any reason during a pregancy. The legislature also advanced a measure that would make abortion a constitutional right.
As of Friday, H. 57, “An act relating to preserving the right to abortion,” passed both the state House and Senate. The bill seeks to “recognize as a fundamental right the freedom of reproductive choice and to prohibit public entities from interfering with or restricting the right of an individual to terminate the individual’s pregnancy.”
The bill, which would protect abortion at any time during pregnancy for any reason, won large majority votes in both chambers of the legislature. In the House, it passed by 106-37, and 24-6 in the Senate.
The state’s governor, Gov. Phil Scott, has said that he supports legislation that would preserve a woman’s right to an abortion. It is unclear if he will sign this particular bill. If signed, the bill will go into effect upon passage.
Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, which encompasses the entire state, told CNA of his dismay at state legislature’s action, and his hopes that women will still choose life.
“I am disappointed that Vermont legislators have decided to move forward with H. 57, even amid many strong, authentic, and educated testimonies in opposition to the bill,” Coyne said.
“Regardless of what the law allows, I hope that women will feel safe and supported in their pregnancies and motherhood and choose life for their children no matter the circumstances,” he added.
Coyne said that the Catholic faith “teaches that all human life is sacred -- meaning ‘of God’--from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death and we are called to embrace and protect that sacred gift that is the very breath of each of our lives.” He reiterated the Church’s teaching that procured abortion is a “moral evil” that is contrary to natural law.
The bishop told CNA that he hopes the law will one day be reversed, and that he is “praying that the rights of unborn children will be recognized as the same human rights to which all are entitled.”
On May 7, Vermont’s legislature advanced Proposal 5, which would write a right to abortion into the state’s constitution. Before this can happen, it must be passed once again by the 2021-2022 legislature, and be approved by voters in the November 2022 election.
If the measure passes, Vermont would become the first state to list abortion as a constitutional right.
Officials from Planned Parenthood, the largest chain of abortion providers in the United States, took a decidedly different tone regarding the legislative actions.
Meagan Gallagher, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (which includes Vermont), said that the state was “the shining example for all other states.”
“Vermont lawmakers made history today by declaring that reproductive rights are human rights,” said Gallagher. “We applaud Vermont’s legislature for making its position clear on reproductive freedom, that protecting the health, dignity, and civil rights of Vermonters is urgently important. “
Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that this was “history in the making.”
“With Trump in the White House and Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, it is more important than ever for states to enact proactive policies to create a critical backstop and protect access to safe, legal abortion care,” said Wen.
“We at Planned Parenthood commend reproductive health care champions for their leadership and their work to protect the lives and well-being of women and families in Vermont.”
If the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, abortion legislation and legalization would devolve back to the level of the individual states.