By Guy Page
Two of the most experienced, knowledgeable, articulate Vermont legislators on the subject of abortion law – one pro-choice, the other pro-life – appear poised to debate Article 22, the proposed amendment to the Vermont Constitution, on live radio.
Appearing on WVMT’s Morning Drive radio program (6/22), Rep. Ann Pugh (D-South Burliington and longtime chair of the House Human Service Committee) said in response to the hosts that she was open to debate the merits of Proposal 5/Article 22, the proposed amendment to the Vermont Constitution that would establish a universal right to “personal reproductive autonomy.” It has been a month since that debate request, and no debate has taken place, either featuring Pugh or any of her colleagues.
Rep. Anne Donahue (R-Northfield, vice-chair of House Health Care Committee), a spokesperson for Vermonters for Good Government, today formally offered to accept the challenge to discuss and debate the pros and cons of Article 22, both on the Morning Drive and in other appropriate venues.
Proponents of Article 22, such as Pugh, are telling Vermonters that this amendment would protect women’s rights to abortion by codifying Roe v. Wade in the Vermont constitution. Opponents of Article 22, who are both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice, are concerned that the actual language of the proposed amendment is problematic on a number of levels.
First, Article 22 goes far beyond Roe v. Wade in that it would allow for no legal prohibition or regulation of abortion at any time during pregnancy, up to nine months, Vermonters for Good Government Executive Director Matthew Strong said.
Even a majority of people who identify as Pro-Choice do not support abortion on demand in the late term, after an unborn child is developed enough to be viable outside the womb, Strong said. As such, Article 22 is far out of sync with Vermonters’ true values regarding abortion policy.
Second, the phrasing of Article 22, which specifically does not mention women, abortion, pregnancy, or bodily autonomy, is highly problematic, Strong claimed. How future courts will interpret an individual right to “personal reproductive autonomy” is unclear, not just in regard to abortion, but also in regard to issues such as eugenics, age of consent, prostitution, and what exactly a man’s right to “personal reproductive autonomy” is and how it might be violated.
Rep. Pugh said repeatedly during committee hearings that disagreement over the applications of Article 22 would, if necessary, be resolved in the state’s courts.
“Vermonters have to vote for or against Article 22 this fall,” said Donahue, “and an overwhelming majority still aren’t aware of what this major piece of law actually says and actually does. Vermonters deserve a robust discussion from all sides before they are asked to make such a momentous decision. I appreciate Representative Pugh’s willingness to have such a public back and forth discussion, and I look forward to taking her up on the challenge – sooner rather than later; early and often.”
Excerpts from a statement by Vermonters for Good Government are included in this news story.