Politics

Abortion would remain legal in Vermont if Roe v. Wade is overturned

Rep. Ann Pugh, D-South Burlington, speaks in favor of Proposal 5, a reproductive liberty amendment to the state constitution, at the Statehouse in Montpelier in February. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion would remain legal in Vermont. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to strike down the right to abortion, according to a bombshell Politico report published Monday night citing a leaked draft of the majority opinion.

If the court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling were overturned, abortion regulations would be governed by state law, unless Congress were to take action. Though many states have sought in recent years to restrict abortion rights, Vermont has moved in the opposite direction.

Abortion is protected in Vermont and, under current state law, would remain legal.

In 2019, Democratic majorities in the Vermont House and Senate approved by wide margins H.57, which guaranteed the right to abortion in the state. The bill codified in statute longstanding case law. "The State of Vermont recognizes the fundamental right of every individual who becomes pregnant to choose to carry a pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to have an abortion,” the law reads

In June 2019, Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed H.57 into a law now known as the Freedom of Choice Act. “This legislation affirms what is already allowable in Vermont — protecting reproductive rights and ensuring those decisions remain between a woman and her health care provider,” the governor wrote upon signing the bill.

During the same legislative session, lawmakers began working on a more lasting approach to protect abortion rights in the state. That year, the Vermont House and Senate signed off on Proposal 5, a constitutional amendment to guarantee sexual and reproductive freedoms.

Vermont’s onerous constitutional amendment process requires multiple votes by the Legislature in back-to-back bienniums. In April 2021, the Vermont Senate again supported Proposal 5, and in February 2022 the Vermont House gave it final legislative approval, placing the question on the general election ballot this November. Should a majority of voters support the measure, Vermont would become the first state to make such an amendment to its state constitution.

The amendment would read, “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.”

Vermont’s abortion protections long predate the Freedom of Choice Act and Proposal 5. In 1972, even before Roe v. Wade was decided, the Vermont Supreme Court “affirmed the right of a woman to abort,” extending the practice beyond those women whose pregnancies endangered their lives.

Across the country, every state has varying degrees of abortion protections. Vermont is one of only four states and the District of Columbia that protects the right to abortion throughout pregnancy. Many states, including New Hampshire, have no explicit protections or bans. Abortion would immediately become illegal in at least a dozen states if Roe is overturned.

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Jeralyn Darling

About Jeralyn

As VTDigger's news editor, Jeralyn Darling anchors the night desk, often as the final set of eyes on stories before they are published. Before arriving at VTDigger she was a night desk editor at the Valley News, covering the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire. Jeralyn has spent the last 14 years as a journalist. She holds a BA in journalism and sociology from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. When not at work, Jeralyn can be found on the trail with her husband, in the woods hunting mushrooms or volunteering with animals.

Email: [email protected]

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