Vermonters sound off on proposed abortion amendment

Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 11:31 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermonters Wednesday night expressed support and concern for a proposal to amend the state constitution to protect abortion rights.

Lawmakers say the amendment on the table is meant to protect “reproductive autonomy.” Since the term reproductive autonomy hasn’t been clearly defined anywhere, some people, including lawmakers, are against Proposal 5.

Representative Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, is one of them. “In a lot of ways it’s creating something unpredictable that would go further than Roe v. Wade, but allow a court to take it in all sorts of opposite directions,” she explained.

Proposal 5 would add language to Vermont’s Constitution saying in part: 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…

“This will prevent future state government from restricting reproductive rights without a compelling state interest,” said Rep. Ann Pugh, D-South Burlington said. “Reproductive freedom is something that is essential to an individual’s well being.”

Some opponents say the language in the proposal isn’t clear. “Vague language will allow abortion up to the very moment of birth and beyond if the baby happens to survive the ordeal,” said Shannara Johnson, who came to speak against the proposed change.

“Does reproductive autonomy extend further than abortion?” asked Carol Kauffman. “Can minors be transported across state lines into Vermont to access these constitutional protections?”

Others worry about the consequences it would have on health care workers. “The state could not interfere with hospitals mandating providers as a condition of practicing and participating in things that violate their conscience like a late-term abortion,” Representative Donahue said.

However, those in favor say the measure protects Vermonters from being subjected to restrictive abortion access. “I believe then as I do now,” said Diana Whitney, a supporter of Proposal 5, who talked about her experience with abortion during the hearing. “Every child should be wanted and no person should be forced to carry an unintended pregnancy to term.”

“Let me be frank, women will always choose their own reproductive destiny,” said Melinda Moulton, who is also in favor of Prop 5. “It will either be at the dangerous end of a coat hanger, or it will be safe in the capable hands of a trained professional.”

The proposal has already passed the Senate and is expected to pass in the House in the coming weeks. Once Governor Scott signs off, it will go before voters in November.

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