Abortion constitutional amendment passes first step in lengthy process

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Abortion constitutional amendment passes first step in lengthy process

Wed, 05/08/2019 - 9:40am -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont House of Representatives on Tuesday approved Proposal 5, a Vermont constitutional amendment that protects personal reproductive autonomy, on a vote of 106-38. The proposed constitutional amendment now awaits consideration by the 2021-2022 Legislature. If it passes both chambers again next biennium, the question will be on the ballot in 2022 for the approval of Vermont voters.

“In this turbulent time, we must have clarity,” said House Committee on Human Services Chair, Representative Ann Pugh (D-South Burlington). “The lack of a definitive enumeration of reproductive liberty in Vermont’s Constitution, the threats to Roe v. Wade being weakened or overturned by a very conservative US Supreme Court, and the cloud of multi-state efforts to erode reproductive autonomy all build a strong case for Proposition 5. For more than 40 years, Vermonters have relied on the protections offered by Supreme Court case law to support how we value personal autonomy in reproductive health decisions and we have intentionally chosen not to limit or restrict them. We have long recognized that decisions related to reproductive health care and abortion are deeply personal and private, and are best left to a woman and her doctor.”

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) added, “the Vermont Constitution is the standard of measure by which laws are judged. If, someday, reproductive freedoms for Vermonters are challenged or restricted, as we are seeing in many other states, our courts will have clear guidance on the fundamental importance of reproductive liberty for our state. Earlier this year, the House passed statutory language in H.57 ensuring that women’s access to abortion continues to remain unconstrained by law with a strong vote of 106-37. The bill and the constitutional amendment go hand-in-hand to guarantee Vermonters’ access to reproductive liberty both in statute and in the constitution. We expect the Senate to take action on H.57 today.”

The process to pass a Vermont constitutional amendment has multiple provisions to ensure it reflects the will of the people. The amendment must pass both the Senate and the House chambers in two consecutive legislative bienniums before being placed on the ballot for Vermont voters on Election Day in November 2022.

Several members took the opportunity to explain their vote (see below):

Rep. Burditt of West Rutland explained his vote as follows:
“Madam Speaker:
I had a member ask me how I was voting on Prop 5. I told him I was
voting no. I was asked if I was against women’s reproductive rights? I said,
‘Not at all.’ I’m against opening and changing our Constitution.”

Rep. Colburn of Burlington explained her vote as follows:
“Madam Speaker:
Reproductive freedom put simply is freedom. I vote yes.”

Rep. Gregoire of Fairfield explained his vote as follows:
“Madam Speaker:
Amending the Constitution is a serious issue; it is a last resort action not to
be taken lightly. Abortion is legal and will remain legal. We are not in a
situation where a right is being abridged or where the document’s intent is in
need of updating. I vote no to opening the amendment process. That is the
issue actually in front of us today.”
Rep. Harrison of Chittenden explained his vote as follows:

“Madam Speaker:
While I voted no on H.57, I supported Proposal 5 after careful
consideration because it offers some balance with the inclusion of “compelling
state interest” and most importantly, allows the proposal to go forward on a
path that will put the issue before the voters. The Vermont Constitution
belongs to all Vermonters and as such, all voters deserve the right to decide if
this proposal should be in their constitution.

Rep. Leffler of Enosburgh explained her vote as follows:
“Madam Speaker:
Any day which this body can promote additional liberty for Vermonters is a
good day. A Constitutional Amendment has the potential to directly judge the
will of Vermonters and put into our most precious and important governing
document new language to guide our state in perpetuity. Proposition Five
received my vote for two clear reasons:

First and foremost, more than 180 legislators should have the opportunity to
speak and vote on this issue. I like to think that we all vote for our
constituents, however this gives us the opportunity to remove all doubt.
Vermonters should have the chance to vote on this issue.

Second, the language in this proposition is clear, without convolution or
caveats. Unlike other legislation we have seen this year, it asserts individual
liberty within the ‘compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive
means.’ It serves the interests of Vermonters while protecting our most
vulnerable women and children.”

Rep. Mrowicki of Putney explained his vote as follows:
“Madam Speaker:
I vote to keep abortion safe and legal for all women, not just the wealthy.
The recent attacks on women’s choice would ensure that only the wealthy
would have access to safe abortions, the way it was before Roe v. Wade.
My vote is for all women to keep their choice, and keep abortion safe and
legal for all.”

Rep. Ode of Burlington explained her vote as follows:
“Madam Speaker:
The right to reproductive liberty is central to the exercise of personal
autonomy and involves decisions people should be able to make free from
compulsion of the State. Enshrining this right in the constitution is critical to
ensuring equal protection and treatment under the law and upholding the right
of all people to health, dignity, independence, and freedom.

Proposition 5 is about letting the people of Vermont vote to decide whether
they agree.”

Rep. Pugh of South Burlington explained her vote as follows:
“Madam Speaker:
For more than 40 years Vermont has supported reproductive liberty. Now it
is necessary and appropriate to enable Vermont voters to decide if personal
reproductive autonomy is a fundamental right to be protected by the Vermont

Rep Rosenquist of Georgia explained his vote as follows:
“Madam Speaker:
I vote no to protest the continued disregard for the most vulnerable among
us (the unborn).”

Rep. Sullivan of Dorset explained her vote as follows:
“Madam Speaker:
The right to personal autonomy is central to the liberty protected by this
Constitution and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by the least
restrictive means.

The constitution acts as a check on state government. It does, and Prop 5
will, protect Vermonters from state intrusion on individual liberties.”


Statement Tuesday from Meagan Gallagher, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England: “Vermont lawmakers made history today by declaring that reproductive rights are human rights. 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. Vermont has established itself as the shining example for all other states by acknowledging that every person is capable of – and must be trusted to – make their own health care decisions without government interference.”


Statement Tuesday from Dr Leana Wen, President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America: “Today, Planned Parenthood celebrates the hard work of advocates in Vermont for working to enshrine reproductive liberty in the state’s constitution. This is 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. 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. When states can act to protect basic health care, they should, and Vermont is an example of the critical role state leaders can play in the work to preserve our patients’ rights and freedoms.”

Source: Speaker of the House 5.7.2019