US Senate candidate Christina Nolan is a ‘no’ on Proposal 5

Christina Nolan speaks with reporters ahead of filing her candidacy for U.S. Senate in Montpelier on Wednesday, May 18. Photo by Natalie Williams/VTDigger

Christina Nolan, who is running for the U.S. Senate as a Republican, said she’s a ‘no’ on Proposal 5, the measure that would enshrine reproductive rights in the Vermont Constitution. 

In the wake of a conservative majority being seated in the U.S. Supreme Court, Vermont lawmakers in 2019 set about a multi-year process to amend the state’s constitution to protect the right to abortion and access to contraceptives. Proposal 5 earned the greenlight from two-thirds majorities in both chambers in two consecutive Legislatures, and this November, it will go before the state’s electorate for final up-or-down vote.

The timing is uncanny. A leaked draft opinion published by Politico earlier this month suggests Roe v. Wade could be overturned in weeks. If so, individual states will have near total discretion over how they regulate abortion.

At an appearance in Montpelier on Wednesday, Nolan, the state’s former top federal prosecutor, said she believes Roe v. Wade “needs to be preserved and upheld,” and said she would work toward that goal in the Senate if elected. But she said that doesn’t mean she would have voted for the recent failed effort in the U.S. Senate by Democrats to codify abortion rights into law. 

The Senate’s bill would have allowed “abortions up to nine months,” she said, adding “that goes too far; I think late-term is too far.” 

That’s the same reason, Nolan said, she’s against Proposal 5, which she characterized as “extreme.”

Asked where she would draw the line, Nolan said “Vermonters need to have this conversation.”

“Up to the limits of what is set forth in Roe is where I draw the line,” she said. “So people can read that opinion.” 

She said she did not believe abortions should be restricted in the first trimester, but that there was “some gray area in the second trimester.”

Where to draw the line — and who should get to do so — has been hotly debated for decades. In Roe, the court ruled that the government could not impose restrictions to abortion access in the first trimester of a pregnancy, but could do so in later stages. A subsequent ruling ditched the trimester-based framework and instead said each state could restrict abortions once a fetus could survive outside the womb.

Abortion access advocates argue that instead of imposing arbitrary cut-offs, states should leave it up to health care providers and pregnant people to decide what is appropriate on a case-by-case basis.

While Vermont does not currently impose any legal barriers to abortion, medical providers say that abortions later in a pregnancy are nevertheless already subject to a strict process of review and exceedingly rare.

The vast majority of abortions in Vermont and nationally occur early in a pregnancy, and surveys indicate that people seeking abortions later on frequently do so because of barriers to care, fetal anomalies or emerging health risks to the pregnant person.

Every major medical organization in Vermont, including the Vermont Academy of Family Physicians, the Vermont Medical Society and the Vermont chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, has supported Prop 5.

Nolan’s stance could put her at odds with most Vermonters: In a February poll from VPR and Vermont PBS, 64% of respondents said they would support a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to an abortion. And even Phil Scott, Vermont’s deeply popular Republican governor, has said he plans to vote for Prop 5.

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Lola Duffort

About Lola

Lola Duffort is a political reporter for VTDigger, covering Vermont state government, the congressional delegation and elections. She previously covered education for Digger, the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire and the Rutland Herald. She has also freelanced for the Miami Herald in Florida, where she grew up. She is a graduate of McGill University in Canada.

Email: [email protected]

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