Fetal personhood at 24 weeks proposed in House

Rejected by Legislature last year, fetal personhood resurfaces in bill this year

By Guy Page

January 16, 2020 – A bill to establish the legal personhood of a human fetus at 24 weeks was introduced into the Vermont House January 15 and referred to the House Human Services Committee.

Rep. Carl Rosenquist

The lead sponsor of H720 is Carl Rosenquist (R-Georgia). Other sponsors are Robert Bancroft (Westford),  Lynn Batchelor (Derby Line),  Lawrence Cupoli (Rutland),  Anne Donahue (Northfield),  Marianna Gamache (Swanton),  Kenneth Goslant (Northfield),  Rodney Graham (Williamstown),  Lisa Hango (Franklin),  Robert Helm (Fair Haven),  Robert LaClair (Barre Town),  Marcia Martel (Waterford),  Leland Morgan (Grand Isle),  Mary Morrissey (Bennington),  John Palasik (Milton),  Brian Savage (Swanton),  Brian Smith (Derby),  Vicki Strong (Albany), and  Thomas Terenzini (Rutland). All are Republicans.

71% of Vermonters support some restrictions on when a fetus may be legally aborted, according to a November 2019 Vermont Water Cooler survey.

“This bill proposes to narrow the right to reproductive choice and confer legal personhood status upon a human fetus beginning at 24 weeks of fetal development prior to birth for purposes of the criminal statutes,” the bill’s introductory statement of purpose says.

Last year the Legislature passed, and Gov. Phil Scott signed, Act 47, guaranteeing the unlimited right to abortion. During House floor debate of the bill last year, Rosenquist offered a ‘personhood’ amendment that was defeated 106-41. All of the sponsors of H720 supported Rosenquist’s amendment.  

A proposed amendment to the Vermont Constitution enshrining the right to abortion was approved by both House and Senate last year. If approved by the 2021-22 Legislature, Prop 5 will go to a statewide voter referendum in November 2022. If voters approved, it will immediately become an amendment.

The sponsors of H720 may be more reflective of Vermont voters than lawmakers who voted for Act 47 and Prop 5. A November, 2019 Vermont Water Cooler voter survey finds that only 29% of Vermonters support unrestricted abortion throughout pregnancy. The other 71% supported restrictions at varying points of the pregnancy.

It is uncertain whether House Human Services Committee will hold hearings or a vote on H720. Members include: Chair Ann Pugh (D-South Burlington), Vice-Chair Sandy Haas (P-Rochester), Ranking Member Francis McFaun (R-Barre Town), Jessica Brumsted (D-Shelburne), James Gregoire (R-Fairfield), Logan Nicoll (D-Ludlow), Daniel Noyes (D-Wolcott), Kelly Pajala (I-Londonderry), Marybeth Redmond (D-Essex Junction), Rosenquist, and Clerk Theresa Wood (D-Waterbury).

In other abortion-related news, the Vermont Right to Life Committee will hold its annual Rally for Life Saturday, January 18 at the Vermont State House.

The event begins at 10 am at St. Augustine’s Church Hall in Montpelier with a warm-up of coffee and doughnuts. Marchers will gather in the parking lot behind City Hall. Signs will be provided. The March to the Capitol will begin at 10:45. A group photo will be taken 11:30 am on State House steps.

At noon, all attendees will gather in House Chambers for Speakers including Abigail Young of Students for Life of America, and Mary H. Beerworth, Executive Director of Vermont Right to Life.

A local area 40 Days for Life group will be joining us in our march for life.  The group will have a display table and sign-up sheet at the State House.  “They are a new, energized, pro-life, group committed to praying for an end to abortion,” a VRLC statement said. 

Refreshments will follow in the State House cafeteria. Family and friends are welcome. There is no charge to attend, but donations are welcome.

Photo of 24-week old fetus approved by Medical Advisory Board of Baby Centre UK.

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