Vermont House Approves Bill To Protect Abortion Rights

Feb 22, 2019

After numerous attempts by Republican lawmakers to amend it, the Vermont House passed a bill that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion even if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

House Bill 57,  titled Preserving the Right To Abortion, states that its legislative intent is  “…to safeguard the right to abortion in  Vermont by ensuring that right is not denied, restricted, or infringed by a governmental entity.” Sponsors were motivated to introduce the bill due to concerns that Roe v. Wade may be overturned, which prompted similar action in New York.
During Wednesday and Thursday’s House debate, Republicans offered a number of amendments concerning counseling, fetal victimhood, parental notification, sale of fetal tissue, and legislative intent.  Each was defeated.

Late Thursday afternoon a roll call vote on the bill was taken. Speaker Mitzi Johnson announced the results. “Please listen to the results of your vote. Those voting yes 106. Those voting no 36 and you have passed House bill 57.”

Weathersfield Democrat Annmarie Christensen voted in favor of the bill.  “I am a woman of an age who remembers what it was like before abortions were legal. Women of means left the country to have an abortion. Women with no means traveled to dark alleys.”

Republican Anne Donahue of Northfield: “It is a bill the symbolic value only, since the fact is that a change in the Roe v. Wade precedent would have no effect on Vermont, and since this bill also carries no weight regarding any future changes, actions in Vermont law.”

Democrat Maxine Grad of Moretown countered: “H. 57 will ensure a woman’s right to access reproductive health care services, including abortion, remains unconstrained by the law. It will give Vermont women certainty within the law.”

Westford Republican Robert Bancroft’s address dripped with sarcasm.  “We are fortunate in Vermont that we do not have any pressing and financial or social problems, so that we can devote thousands of person hours to passing a bill that does not change anything. The purpose behind the H.57 is simply to provide a platform for political grandstanding.”

Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence Executive Director Karen Tronsgard-Scott is not surprised that Vermont’s bill to protect abortion rights is so demonstrative.  A supporter of the bill, she says too often the debate is based on binary concepts when the issue is much more complex.  “In our work to support survivors of domestic and sexual violence we see that reproductive and sexual coercion is very often a factor in that dynamic of abuse. For survivors of domestic and sexual violence the situation at hand today with regard to reproductive and sexual coercion as well as the physical violence, the emotion coercion, economic coercion, those are factors that serve to narrow and make one’s options and life smaller and smaller and smaller. The situation with the reproductive rights of women it’s an issue that is a human rights issue.”

The measure is now being considered in the Vermont Senate.

Audio from the Vermont House is courtesy of the Statehouse webstream provided by Vermont Public Radio.