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Two Vermont legislators attend White House reproductive health forum

Vermont Statehouse  (file photo)
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Vermont Statehouse (file)

The White House brought legislators from across the country to Washington last week to discuss state efforts to protect access to reproductive health care. Two state Senators from Vermont were there.

More than 80 legislators from 41 states met to discuss the state of reproductive health protection across the country.

According to the White House, since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade a year ago there are now abortion bans in 18 states affecting more than 23 million women of reproductive age.

Senator Ginny Lyons, a Democrat, chairs the committee on Health and Welfare and serves on the Oversight Commission on Children, Youths, and Families. She notes Vermont has passed a number of initiatives including a constitutional amendment to protect reproductive rights and a health care professional shield bill.

“The biggest thing that came out of the meeting, or one of the things we were sort of directed to think about, is what are the next steps to ensure that across the country we are protecting both our providers and we’re protecting women who would like to have a choice or to protect family planning and contraception because we’re seeing an assault on all aspects of reproductive liberty in different states. I did make a recommendation for what we can do going forward. I’m thinking about some compact between states that support and advocate for reproductive liberty so that we can have smooth sailing for people who would like to move from one state to the next for reproductive choice.”

Vermont Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale was invited to attend with her husband and 8-month-old daughter. The Democrat noted that the two days of meetings included one dedicated to legislators from states that have rolled back reproductive rights and the next from states supporting rights.

“I thought it was creative and powerful that the White House did that. Those are legislators that are fighting so hard and losing battles, but it’s not for lack of trying. And those are really brutal battles. I mean we hear about those issues secondhand. Women who are getting sick or dying waiting for care because the hospital’s arguing whether or not if it would be considered something they would be liable for. You know we don’t have the same fight so it’s just important that we can have those conversations and all be thinking about what we can do in the lead up to the year marker of the Dobbs decision and the fall of Roe.”

Hinsdale says Vermont has passed a number of laws, the meeting highlighted economic and other outstanding issues.

“We were able to talk about child care, paid family leave, but we also started to talk about data privacy, consumer protection. There’s just a range of challenges that families face and certainly whatever we do it really has to include priorities of telemedicine and protecting health care providers because this climate will only get more intimidating for people who want to help those in red states access abortion. I’m really scared that people, particularly young women, are losing freedom of movement, that they’re now being questioned when they cross state lines or questioned when they return. The easiest and most convenient thing for them is to get telemedicine abortion medication.”

White House officials attending the meeting included the directors of the Gender Policy Council and the Domestic Policy Council, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Vice President Kamala Harris.