by Rep. Anne Donahue
I heard a conversation a few months ago about frustration that pro-lifers achieved overturning Roe by working for years to elect people and get judges appointed.
They felt that was so underhanded, after they worked for so many years to elect people and get judges elected to get abortion rights established.
Yes, that’s a paraphrase, but not by much — they truly didn’t hear themselves. And yes, folks, that’s how democracy works. They are the ones who taught us how to do it!
But certain issues should not be fought on political stages, because they do involve fundamental rights.
Dobbs did one thing right – that we celebrate today – it withdrew the concept that a woman had a constitutional right to decide whether a pregnancy should continue, and as a result, states can now again be the ones to make decisions on when or whether that right should exist.
That included the ability of Vermont to decide that that the right was just about absolute. This legislative session, it became clear that there was no longer a pretext that this was a “pro-choice” decision. Bills were passed that protected abortion above childbirth.
That was now possible because Dobbs missed the major point, which is why our fight has only just begun.
It missed the fact that a life is a life, no matter how small – and therefore there are, in fact, constitutional rights involved: That bodily integrity means, first and foremost, not being killed.
I actually disagree with Dobbs, because I think for each one of us, there is a constitutional right to control over our own bodies. But that is not competing with a state interest in “potential” life – it must compete against a constitutional right to life.
Once a pregnancy has begun, there are two people with rights to bodily integrity. That is the issue that no one is willing to recognize and struggle with.
The other missing part of the conversation is about how it is that people become pregnant.
In the vast majority of cases, it comes from actions chosen by people with the knowledge that there was a risk — even if they believed it was small, they knew they were choosing to take it — that conception of a baby could occur.
Funny thing, that’s actually the original biological purpose of those actions
Doesn’t that matter? Usually, if you choose a risk, you also accept the potential consequences.
In this case, you create a new person, with an independent right to bodily integrity — that you gave to it.
Shouldn’t that affect the debate?
So Dobbs pulled us back to pre-Roe. That’s worth celebrating.
But it only brought us back to pre-Roe. It has not solved anything from where the debate stood in 1973. It has not established a right to life.
We’ve been on the defensive since Roe, pushing back against it.
Now we have to begin the fight to move forward.
And we have not yet begun to fight.
The author represents Northfield and Berlin in the Vermont House of Representatives.