by Brandon Arcari, Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Senate has passed a proposal, Proposition 5, which would amend the Vermont constitution to guarantee "personal reproductive liberty" to Vermonters. The proposal, in conjunction with a House bill already passed this year, would protect abortion in the state both legislatively and constitutionally, making removing those protections much more difficult. Both the bill and the amendment are in reaction to the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court, due to concerns over his stance on the Roe v. Wade case that protected abortion nationally.
Several states, including Georgia, Kentucky and Missisippi have passed bills since Kavanaugh's appointment that decrease the length of time abortion is legal to six weeks past fertilization.
“We applaud the Vermont Senate for taking this historic step towards protecting the rights of all people with the passage of Prop 5," said Meagan Gallagher, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, in a press release. "Prop 5 would amend the Vermont Constitution to uphold the will of Vermonters – that an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course."
While the bill could go into effect immediately once it is passed, a constitutional amendment will take longer to go into effect.
If it passes both the Senate and the House this year, it will need to be considered again during the 2021-2022 biennium. If it passes again, it will be presented to Vermont voters at the November 2022 general election.
At a press conference for the launch of an energy incentive program, Governor Phil Scott signaled his support for the amendment.
"It's attractive in a number of different ways, one, it goes out to the people, it's difficult to change the constitution - as it should be," he said. "I'm a supporter of trying to do whatever we can to protect Roe v. Wade."
Scott noted that he hasn't had the chance to fully review the plan, but he thinks that it is moving in the right direction.
"If Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, the ability to access safe, legal abortion will be determined by the states," Gallagher said in the statement. "Amending the Constitution of the State of Vermont to ensure that every Vermonter is afforded personal reproductive liberty is necessary to protect the health, dignity, and civil rights of all Vermonters."
Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson said in a statement: “I commend the Vermont Senate for their strong vote today to guarantee the right to reproductive liberty for all Vermonters. I believe that whether, when, and how a person becomes a parent is a deeply personal decision and that decisions about pregnancy should remain between a woman and her health care professional. The Senate’s vote today is the first step in ensuring the next generation of Vermont women have the same access to reproductive and abortion care that Vermonters have had for the last 46 years.
“Earlier this year, the House passed statutory language in H.57 with a strong vote of 106-37. This bill ensures that women’s access to abortion continues to remain unconstrained by law. The bill and the constitutional amendment go hand-in-hand to guarantee Vermonters’ access to reproductive liberty in statute and in the constitution. I expect the House to begin work vetting the constitutional amendment promptly and look forward to seeing both of these bills cross the finish line this year.”
THIS STORY WAS UPDATE FRIDAY AFTERNOON TO CORRECT TIMELINE OF PASSING A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.