by Renee Brodowski
Pro-choice proponents need to know that Article 22, the proposed “personal reproductive autonomy” amendment, will not codify women’s rights to abortion into the Vermont Constitution. In fact, amending the Vermont Constitution to make “personal reproductive autonomy” a right for every individual – men, women, and children – undermines women’s access to safe, on-demand abortion, and undermines parent’s authority to direct their children in reproductive matters free from state interference.
Here is the language of Article 22: “That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.”
During the House floor vote on February 8, 2022, House Committee on Human Services Chairwoman Ann Pugh proclaimed the language of the proposed amendment is clear and narrow in scope, and ready to be brought before the voters. However, in 2019 testimony, the Vermont Attorney General’s office and the ACLU recommended the word “abortion” be included in the “purpose” section of the amendment; a recommendation the House Human Services Committee ignored.
In 2019, Senator Ginny Lyons, when asked why not include the word “abortion” in the amendment, stated, “it [reproductive autonomy] will allow for the Supreme Court interpretation, going further, on those things coming up in the future.” What does Senator Lyons anticipate coming up in the future? Why did legislators decide to put forth vague language before the voters that will need to be interpreted by courts, thus abdicating their responsibility to represent their constituents?
Also, during the House Floor Vote in February, Representative Anne Donahue, a Georgetown Law School graduate, explained the legal technicalities, challenges, and extremeness of the language of Article 22 at the one-hour, sixteen-minute mark of the two-hour session. I highly recommend everyone listen to her comments before voting on Article 22, which is available on YouTube on the Vermont House of Representatives channel.
Please consider the following: 1) Unrestricted abortion has been legal in Vermont Since 1972, a year before the Roe v Wade Decision. See Beecham v. Leahy; 2) The Vermont Legislature passed, and Governor Scott signed H.57 (Act 47) in 2019 to make it explicit in state statute that unrestricted, unregulated abortion is the law; 3) Even though Roe v. Wade was overturned at the federal level, abortion will remain legal in our State, even if Article 22 is not added to the Vermont Constitution.
Senator Ruth Hardy recently withdrew from an Article 22 debate with Representative Anne Donahue, scheduled in Middlebury on September 13, denying voters access to free and open debate on this extremely important issue of amending our State Constitution. Will Representative Ann Pugh, Chair of the House Committee that gave a favorable recommendation to the House to advance Proposition 5 (now Article 22) to the voters, uphold her offer to debate Representative Donahue, which was accepted in early August, or will she back out, as well?
All legislative incumbents who voted in favor of bringing this poorly crafted amendment before the voters, along with all government officials who endorse Article 22, need to be replaced by candidates who understand Article 22 is bad governance and serves neither pro-choice nor pro-life constituents. Any candidate who claims they plan to vote “yes” on Article 22 is not competent to serve in government, for they either do not understand or they ignore the reckless, disastrous language of Article 22.
The author is an Addison County resident.