The Vermont House on Tuesday voted in favor of Proposition 5, which seeks to add an amendment to the state Constitution that would make abortion a right. The 107 to 41 vote comes after the Vermont Senate approved Prop 5 in April 2021.
Changing the Vermont Constitution requires multiple steps. The process to add abortion as a right began in 2019 when both the House and Senate approved Prop 5 for the first time. Following the Senate’s 2019 approval and the approval of the House on Tuesday, it will head to the desk of Republican Gov. Phil Scott who is expected to sign it, and who considers himself “pro-choice but with restrictions.” Scott is required to give public notice that the proposition will be on the ballot in November, which Vermonters are expected to vote in favor of, according to the Washington Post.
Vermont does not have a single restriction on abortion and 70% of voters there say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Prop 5 will ensure that no abortion restrictions are ever enacted in the state, keeping the killing of innocent preborn children legal and on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy in the event that Roe V. Wade is overturned. If Roe is overturned by the Supreme Court this June when it decides on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, no current laws in any state — including Vermont — would immediately change. Ultimately, the overturning of Roe v. Wade would simply allow states to restrict abortion however they choose — or not.
Prop 5 states, “That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.”
Essentially, one person’s right to life and natural death can be trumped by another person’s right to bodily autonomy. There is no mention in the proposition about the person whose right to life will be destroyed by it.
“Individuals inherently do control their reproductive decisions,” State Rep. Anne Donahue said. But that control, she explained, ends “once biological reproduction has occurred.” She continued, “Simply because the embryo’s survival depends upon the protection of the womb does not make it the property of or merely an appendage of the person bearing it.”
Pro-life legislators said that allowing such an “extreme” change to the Constitution is the wrong move because it assumes that public opinion on abortion will never change. “We as human beings have made a lot of mistakes at times when we thought we were doing the right thing,” said Donahue, who cited the Supreme Court’s previous rulings on segregation (when the court ruled that racial segregation in railroad cards was constitutional) and eugenics (when the court ruled that states had the right to forcibly sterilize certain people). “When we start putting a current belief in the constitution, I think we’re playing with fire.”
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