Feb. 9, 2022
The Vermont legislature has approved a constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters, would guarantee a woman’s reproductive rights, including the right to an abortion.
Other states have passed laws ensuring a woman’s right to an abortion, but Vermont would be the first to put that right in the state constitution, The Washington Post reported.
The reproductive rights bill will be put on the ballot for the November election after the state House of Representatives passed the legislation Tuesday. If approved, it would take effect immediately.
Pew Research Center polls show Vermont residents heavily support a woman’s right to abortion, so the amendment has a good chance of passing, the newspaper said.
Legislatures in some states, including Texas, have severely limited a woman’s right to abortion in recent years. Vermont abortion supporters said the constitutional amendment, known as Proposition 5, was needed because the U.S. Supreme Court is considering a Mississippi law that could overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1970s ruling that guarantees a woman’s right to abortion.
“We can no longer rely on federal courts to uphold the protections for fundamental reproductive rights based on the federal constitution,” Democratic state Rep. Ann Pugh said before the vote, according to The Post.
An opponent of the bill, Republican state Rep. Anne Donahue, said it assumes public opinion on abortion rights won’t change, according to The Post.
“We as human beings have made a lot of mistakes at times when we thought we were doing the right thing,” said Donahue, mentioning past Supreme Court prior rulings on issues such as segregation. “When we start putting a current belief in the constitution, I think we’re playing with fire.”
The amendment won’t immediately make it easier or more difficult for Vermont women seeking abortions.
“What Prop 5 does mean is that the Legislature and governor will not determine what restrictions will be placed on abortion procedures,” state Rep. George Till, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center, told The Associated Press.
The Guttmacher Institute says that Vermont “does not have any of the major types of abortion restrictions—such as waiting periods, mandated parental involvement or limitations on publicly funded abortions—often found in other states.”
In Vermont, amending the state constitution requires an amendment be approved by two consecutive legislatures and then be approved in a statewide referendum.
The amendment passed both the House and Senate in 2019 and was approved again in the Senate in 2021, The Post reported.