Debate over reproductive rights in Vermont has moved from the state Senate to the House. The House Committee on Human Services held a public hearing on Proposition 5 Wednesday evening. The two-hour session to take comment on a proposed change to the state constitution comes two weeks after the state Senate gave initial approval to the measure.
If approved Proposition 5 would amend the Vermont Constitution to guarantee personal reproductive liberty. During Senate consideration in March a hearing in the House Chamber drew overflow crowds. Wednesday evening mirrored the previous hearing as supporters and opponents lined up to give testimony.
Committee Chair Representative Anne Pugh outlined the process. “If the committee and the House pass on Proposition 5 as it has come over from the Senate for the process to continue in the next biennium it would have to go through the House and the Senate again. And if at that time it went through the House and the Senate again it would be brought to the voters in November of 2022.”
Pugh then read the Proposition, which would add a clause that guarantees personal reproductive liberty. Vermonters then had 2 minutes apiece to make comments.
Opponent Lisa Laverty of Essex says the proposition exploits the fears of pregnant women. “I’d like to know who was there protecting my reproductive freedom seven years ago when the high risk obstetrician had me terrified and my government told me it was OK to take my baby’s life. How was I free that day? You’re not free to choose when you’re afraid and confused.”
St. Johnsbury resident Michelle Fay is Executive Director of Voices for Vermont’s Children. “Today a woman’s right to have an abortion is under great threat. The Trump Administration is waging war on reproductive health and women’s rights. If the Roe decision is overturned the ability to access safe legal abortion will be determined by the states. Vermont currently has no laws affirmatively protecting abortion rights. It’s important that the legislature makes its position on reproductive rights crystal clear.”
“My name is Eileen Haupt and I’m from Jericho. When we examine what is actually an area of contention we are left with a constitutional right that shall not be named. It is very curious that their amendment doesn’t even mention the word abortion. If the aim is to enshrine abortion in the Vermont Constitution the amendment language ought to explicitly express that.”
“My name is Kathleen Grange and I am speaking out against the passage of Prop 5 constitutional amendment. Who’s right is the right right? If a woman is pregnant and wants to deliver her baby but the man doesn’t want the child to be born who’s individual right to personal reproductive autonomy prevails? Or is Prop 5 really meant to be about unrestricted abortion through all nine months of pregnancy?”
“My name is Carole Crossman. It seems the courts these days are so busy passing laws to control a woman’s body maybe it’s time to pass laws to control a man’s body.”
On April 4th the Vermont Senate gave preliminary approval to Proposition 5. With that vote the measure’s language cannot be changed.
Audio from the House Human Services hearing is courtesy of Orca Media in Montpelier, Vermont.