Donahue: Reflections on Article 22 vote

Good people make grievous human rights decision

by Rep. Anne Donahue

Eric Metaxas, author of Seven Women and the Secret of Their Greatness, in 2015, said, “Each era has the fatal hubris to believe that it has once and for all climbed to the top of the mountain and can see everything as it is, from the highest and most objective vantage point possible.”

We have been certain in the past: It was a norm to take land and slaughter its people; to sell people; to sterilize those we believed should not be procreating.

Rep. Anne Donahue

None of those actions were taken in the belief of doing wrong. They were in accord with society’s values at that time. 

Now, as Vermonters, we have adopted an amendment to our constitution that has established that personal reproductive autonomy supersedes giving weight to whether another human right is also at stake. 

Some are touting this victory as an historic gain. History should give us a cautionary lesson. How sure should we be that we have climbed to the top of the mountain and can see everything as it is?

Perhaps now is a safe opportunity to reflect more deeply on the profound issues at stake.

Our human race, worldwide and for centuries, has been wrestling with the issues of women’s rights and abortion. Is it exclusively a right of health care and autonomy? Is a developing embryo or fetus also a person, who therefore also has rights deserving of protection by society? 

The history of humankind is deeply engrained with the stain of dividing between fit and unfit, those deemed less than fully human. 

Our founding fathers allowed Black slave lives to be counted as three-fifths the value of a white life. Those lives were not recognized as having equivalent value or humanity. Slaves could be hunted down and killed because individual property rights were at stake.

Colonialism and the massacre of indigenous people was not recognized as wrong, because conquerors had the right to claim new lands and new property rights and to kill for that purpose.

Less than 100 years ago, the Supreme Court allowed “unfit lives” – Black, poor, indigenous, sexually different, disabled – to be denied the right to procreate, upholding eugenic sterilization. 

Respected citizens did not recognize eugenics as wrong, because people unfit to reproduce did not have equal value, and society had a right to prevent unwanted children from becoming a burden on society. 

Planned Parenthood removed the name of Margaret Sanger, a eugenics supporter, from its New York affiliate building in 2020 with an acknowledgement that it was, “both a necessary and overdue step to reckon with our legacy and acknowledge Planned Parenthood’s contributions to historical reproductive harm within communities of color.” 

In other words, the planning of parenthood was part of an agenda to curtail the growth of unwanted groups of people, persons of lesser value. 

We have always used different labels to distinguish the wanted and the unwanted. Likewise, with how we talk about whether there is independent life in the womb.

When a wanted pregnancy ends in a miscarriage, we say, “she lost her baby,” not her embryo or her fetus; pharmaceutical companies warn us about risks to “an unborn baby.” 

When parents share pictures of their baby in the womb they don’t say, “look at our fetus” — yet many people recoil at the thought of requiring someone to look at the same photo before deciding to abort. We don’t want that humanity to be visible if it is unwanted. 

The criteria of being wanted or not defines one as a fetus and the other a human baby. It does not seem very different from deeming unwanted indigenous people or Black people or Jewish people or poor people as being less fully human in order to assuage consciences over adopting the priorities of society at the time.

Refusing to recognize that there may be both autonomy rights of a person carrying a baby and a right of protection once that new life is in development, demeans value of that life in favor of a societal priority of personal control over pregnancy. 

We all voted on November 8 with the intent of doing the right thing – to protect human rights. We simply saw those human rights under very different lenses. That intent should be recognized on both sides, not vilified.

Good people, however, have in the past made grievous mistakes that violated human rights. 

For the prevailing side of Article 22, the question should be asked: What will time tell us about decisions we make in our era? What might we need to apologize for; be forgiven for; be asked to make reparations for? 

What we should not do is to have that fatal hubris to believe that we have once and for all climbed to the top of the mountain and can see everything as it is, from the highest and most objective vantage point. The way any of us see things is not necessarily everything there is.

Whether perceived as victory or loss, let each of us have the humility to consider our votes with a slight bit less certainty that our perspective will stand the judgement of time.

Anne Donahue was recently re-elected as state representative for the Washington-1 House district and was a spokesperson for Vermonters for Good Government lobbying against passage of Article 22.

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Categories: Commentary

10 replies »

  1. This was an awesome and accurate read; thank you Ms. Donahue. Today people continue to make these kinds of grave errors in judgement fueled by their self-righteousness and self-appointed omnipotence. So many act as the very antithesis of independent and rational thinking. Of course, another human being’s life can never be diminished by whether or not they are perceived as “wanted” or of “value” by anyone else.

    The most chilling distinction however between centuries past as you detail above, and our own era is that despite the historical record we now have at hand, along with modern medicine which of course validates that life begins at conception – is that abortions are performed so perfunctorily, nonetheless.

    Thereby we remain essentially where we began, in other words; falsely believing that somehow, someway our own life is preeminent as compared to someone else’s.

  2. This article is an example of the continuing plague of the false premise……

    Re: “Our founding fathers allowed Black slave lives to be counted as three-fifths the value of a white life. Those lives were not recognized as having equivalent value or humanity.”

    The paradox in citing this reality is that the three-fifths designation was a political maneuver, understood, for example, by folks like Fredrick Douglass, in that it limited the political representation of southern slave-states in the congress, while at the same time advancing abolition.

    And the same paradox can be said for Article 22.

    Yes, those who advocated for Article 22 are no different than the southern slave holders. Not only did they demand ‘autonomy’ (analogous to the ‘state’s rights’ argument put forth by the antebellum south), those who advocated for Article 22 completely disregarded the rights of an unborn child, right up to the time of birth – a grossly repugnant point of view by my standards.

    But keep this in mind before throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Article 22 also gives reasonable, God-fearing women, the right to NOT have an abortion.

    Scripture warned of this eventuality.

    And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ – Luke 23:27-29

    And then…
    Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Luke 23:34

  3. This is the best historical argument I’ve ever seen regarding abortion. Compared to other left-wing “humanist” felonies, to see the infanticide industry compared/contrasted is brilliant. Abortion is murder of convenience. Period. Thank you, Rep. Donahue. I voted against Article 22, and voted for you.

  4. Hold it , doesn’t that mean these mask mandates are out the window. Don’t I have a right to bodily autonomy just like some woman wanting an abortion? If not, why not? And can’t that same argument be used for this abortion issue. “lacking a compelling state interest” (what ever that means or they want it to mean)
    Maybe because of the overwhelming hubris of the legislators, they unleashed a unknown backdoor to this medical tyranny we are presently under. At what point can a man or woman go to the doctors of any kind or specialty without being FORCED into the medical procedure of being forced to get a medical test for something that is not real or wear a face diaper because the government “TOLD YOU TO” nothing more. Maybe, just maybe their is a lawyer out there who sees this as a golden opportunity to get a big verdict for we Vermonters who have been forced into being non-persons , hermits, pariahs in our own communities much like the blacks being discussed above, because we believe in something bigger than the government and its edicts.
    As a black man I am enraged by the lack of liberty that so many of you have just laid down and given up, all because the government , who we have found out lied to us big time, told you to. Reminds me of two things. A train ride for a better place to live ( Jews) and “Blacks LIKE being slaves”. Both lies and both believed and in some cases advocated on the floors of Congress. Some of history’s greatest atrocities are and have been perpetrated by using the same language.

  5. The democrats had a plan-in 2019-2020 they sent antifa, blm and the woke organizations to tear down statues and to throw out our history so they could yell how racist we all are and burn down cities killing people —that’s fascism. They want to rebuild America from their marxists/maoists point of view. Vermont had rejected Eugenics when it repealed the law in 1931-they just reinstated it. Vermont is gone. The democrats have no conscience now. No morals. No ethics. Before Nov. 8th’s vote, I thought the pro-lifers truly believed that the progressives had gone too far-that late term abortions was going too far because you were killing a living breathing baby who if born that day could survive living outside the womb—and article 22 cannot pass—but it didn’t matter to them-kill them all and call it population control or a climate change directive. They want to maintain control of the population—if you want services do as I say, vote as I tell you to vote and we’ll get along. They’ll be forcing people to get abortions and sterilizations next.

  6. The back slappers and high fivers who think they won by passing article 22 are those who can’t see beyond the ridding of a life unwanted. These people seem to be similar to those who drown puppies or kittens in a pail of water as an unwanted annoyance. In both cases those babies, puppies and kittens were wanted by other people who would take and support them throughout their lives. But, we live in a throw away society with political forces battling against one another to take a life or to spare a life. They aren’t in battle over a clump of tissue to be removed. They are battling over a life if untouched and left to develop inside the womb, a person. Those of us who voted against this act, can move forward with a clear conscience. Whatever history decides, it is us who said no who are on the side of life not premature death out of inconvenience or mistake. I personally sleep well knowing that I voted for life.

  7. In the 1980’s a judge in Rutland Vt FINALLY decided that Der Schtadt does not have the right to dictate when an abortion should be performed; that sterilizing the “defective” without their desire or consent was not okay. At least that’s what it said on paper. What was NOT commonly known was that young women, after an abortion they were obviously coerced into getting, were sterilized without their knowledge or consent since then. You know…hush hush, just get it done.
    Now we are dealing with a change in the VT Constitution giving carte blanche to Der Schtadt to do AS THEY SEE FIT. Are you getting that???? As DER SCHTADT decides!!! Not the patient. For anything medical. Anything. Are people getting that????
    I do NOT believe we-the-people voted for this murder bill. It was painfully obvious that Vt politicians made up their minds, and so be it. You know, the usual “for your own good” B.S. Let’s be honest with ourselves-when VT announces a win for THEIR choice less that 20 minutes after polls close year after year, do you really think Vermonters had their free and fair elections unimpeded? When was the last time Vermonters really controlled their politicians?
    This is disgusting, immoral, disenfranchising. DISGUSTING.