Advocates criticize, support reproductive freedom legislation in Vt. legislature

Published: Oct. 2, 2021 at 9:16 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - People across the U.S., including Vermonters, are protesting Texas’s new abortion ban on Saturday, one month after it took effect. While pro-choice advocates are speaking out about Texas’s new law that outlaws abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, those against abortion are sounding the alarm on a proposal in the Vermont Legislature that they believe swings too far in the opposite direction.

Proposal 5, also known as the Right to Personal Reproductive Autonomy Amendment, seeks to add language to Vermont’s Constitution to ensure a pregnant person’s right to an abortion. It states “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.”

Mary Hahn Beerworth, the executive director of the Vermont Right to Life Committee, thinks Proposal 5 is “the most extreme pro-abortion concept in the country.”

If passed, Vermont would become the first state in the nation to uphold “personal reproductive liberty” in its constitution. Hahn Beerworth believes the term “personal reproductive liberty” is unpredictable, vague and open to interpretation.

“They open the door to unconstrained science,” Hahn Beerworth said. “If an unborn child has zero rights under the law and under our Constitution, your imagination can tell you how far that might go. It could lead to experimental sorts of things happening to an unborn child. As far as the science can take you.”

Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale, a Democrat representing the Chittenden District, believes Proposal 5 is “groundbreaking.”

“Our liberty is predicated on the idea that we can choose how to move forward with our health care and our family planning,” Ram Hinsdale said. “And our pursuit of happiness has everything to do with and when and how to bring life into this world. So many of us want that opportunity. This is enshrining health care and the right to choose for all Vermonters.”

While many Americans are focused on Texas, Hahn Beerworth says she wants to keep the conversation in Vermont around decisions the Vermont Legislature is making, not Texas.

“So that’s my focus. Texas does what Texas does. But Vermont has stripped any protection for an unborn child and that is the other end of extreme in my opinion,” she said.

Ram Hinsdale says she’s worried about Texas’s abortion ban, which includes a clause that lets private citizens file lawsuits against abortion providers, sets a dangerous precedent in the U.S.

“Dangerous for everyone in that state who might have someone who wishes to have power over their lives. It could be a family member, a spouse, a domestic abusive partner,” she said. “This is the biggest overreach I’ve ever seen beyond the issue of abortion into the freedoms and liberties of every Texan and thereby, the threat of that happening to other Americans.”

Both pro-life and pro-choice groups are holding events on Saturday.

The Vermont Right to Life Committee is hosting the Life Symposium at the Double Tree in South Burlington from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Multiple organizations, including the Women’s March and the ACLU, are leading the Rally for Reproductive Freedom at the Vermont Statehouse from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m.

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