Vermont Congressional Leaders Host Roundtable on Reproductive Rights
Vermont Congressman Peter Welch and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders met abortion rights advocates and lawmakers in Burlington on Monday to discuss two measures, one federal and one state, to protect abortion rights women’s reproductive rights.
The Democratic congressman and independent senator from Vermont met with the regional office chief of Planned Parenthood, lawyers from the ACLU and the Vermont attorney general’s office, and state lawmakers to discuss protecting the women’s reproductive rights.
Vermont is entering the final stages of a state constitutional amendment process that would add a clause stating:
“That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the freedom and dignity to determine one’s own course of life and should not be denied or violated unless it is justified by a state interest imperative achieved by the least restrictive means. “
Chairman of the House Social Services Committee and South Burlington Democrat Ann Pugh read the only sentence that would guarantee “freedom of personal reproduction” in Vermont’s constitution. She says Proposition 5, or the Reproductive Freedom Amendment, has already passed the first of two consecutive legislative votes in the biennium and will be considered again when the legislature meets in January.
“Freedom of personal reproduction. It’s more than just an abortion. The importance of Proposition 5 to Vermonters cannot be understated. It was important before and it is even more important now given what is happening at the national level. “
The recent signing of a new restrictive anti-abortion law in Texas highlights the concerns of advocates. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England vice president of public policy, Lucy Leriche, warned states have copy laws.
“Right next door in New Hampshire we have a lawmaker who has vowed to jump on the bandwagon and pass similar legislation. And then we saw over 600 separate restrictions or attempted restrictions introduced in the United States. This is the worst year in terms of restrictions introduced at the national level since the Roe decision was taken in 1973. “
Congressman Welch is sponsoring HR 3755, the Women’s Health Protection Act, to secure reproductive rights nationwide. He said the new Texas law adds urgency to protecting women’s rights.
“It’s an amazing thing that happened in Texas. It appears to be absolutely and clearly unconstitutional. The second thing he does is incredibly dangerous. This essentially creates a mechanism for law enforcement in the mafia. In the House, I think this week we’re going to pass legislation that all Democrats I believe in the House are co-sponsoring to codify Roe v. Wade and protect the rights of women in all states.
Senator Sanders says the protection of reproductive rights is a human rights issue.
“I want to say a word to the men over there and I want you all to think about how you would feel if the government told you what to do with your own body. You would say it is outrageous. This is unacceptable. It is a denial of my fundamental rights. And it’s. We are in the same boat. It’s not a women’s problem. It’s not a men’s problem. It is a matter of human rights.
Main Street Landing CEO Melinda Moulton is a longtime women’s rights and civil rights activist. She recounted her family’s experience before abortion became legal.
“I am 71 years old. I’m here today to give some historical context to this discussion and to tell you why the Texas abortion ban should scare us all. I remember the night my mom was rushed to hospital because she was bleeding on the floor in our bathroom. Years later, I learned from my aunt that my mother had attempted and successfully aborted her pregnancy, ”Moulton recalls. “My mother died in 1962, eleven years before abortion was made safe and legal in this country and she was only 40 years old. Women will always, always choose their own reproductive destiny. And the reality is that it will either be on the dangerous end of a hanger, or it will remain safe in the capable and trained hands of a professional. We must ensure that the latter remains.
If Vermont’s Proposition 5 passes in the next legislative session, then it would be presented to voters in November 2022.