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Businesses speak in support of Vermont’s proposed Reproductive Liberty Amendment

Vermont Statehouse
Vermont Statehouse (file)

A group of Vermont businesses is backing the state’s Reproductive Liberty Amendment, which will go before voters this fall.

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England has launched the Vermont for Reproductive Liberty Campaign to garner support and educate residents about the measure that will appear on the November ballot.

Among the 1,300 endorsers of the campaign is Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, a group with over 600 members that focuses on the social and environmental impact of business. Public Policy Manager Jordan Giaconia said they want people to be aware of the economic benefits of passing the amendment, commonly known as Prop 5.

"Not having enough money to care for a child or support another child is one of the most common reasons people give for wanting to terminate a pregnancy and Vermonters are justified in being concerned about the financial consequences of carrying a pregnancy to term," Giaconia said. "Because the responsibility of raising a child born after being denied an abortion falls disproportionately on women restricting abortion access also threatens their economic security.”

The business leaders referred to state legislatures elsewhere in the country enacting and proposing abortion restrictions and the anticipated decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that could overturn Roe v. Wade.

Burton Snowboards co-founder, owner and chair Donna Carpenter said while 10 or 15 years ago business did not get involved, customers and employees now expect them to take a stand.

"Burton, as a company, we provide travel to access to reproductive health services for employees who live in states where those rights are restricted," Carpenter said. "And we as a company are publically supporting the Reproductive Liberty Amendment. At a time when the fundamental right for people to choose their own destiny is threatened in approximately half the U.S., Vermont is once again a beacon of light and hope.”

Ben & Jerry’s Global head of Advocacy Chris Miller said at a time of polarized politics and wedge issues it is crucial for business to speak out.

"You know it’s something like two-thirds of the American people support access to reproductive health services in almost all instances," Miller said. "This is not a controversial issue. This is an issue that is being weaponized by one side of the political spectrum. And so it’s even more important for business leaders to speak out publicly. It helps push back against these fringe voices.”

The measure received final legislative passage in the House on February 8th with a 107 to 41 vote. At the time Northfield Republican Anne Donahue voted against it and said individuals already control their reproductive choices before conception.

“Although abortion is never directly referenced in the language we know that in current legislative intent it’s the core impetus for this proposal," Donahue said. "Individuals inherently do control their reproductive decisions but once that biological reproduction has already occurred because conception has occurred that choice has been made.”

The proposed amendment adds a phrase to the Vermont Constitution which states: “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.”

The measure has passed two consecutive legislatures and will be on the November ballot.

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