by Tom Kelly
In a recent letter, Roxanne Voight of Weybridge and Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, laments the Dodds decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade and sent the abortion issue back to the states. Voight asks readers to vote “yes” in November on Article 22, which would enshrine in our state constitution a right to “personal reproductive autonomy.”
While I am pro-life, I ask all voters, wherever they stand on the issue, to take a closer look and vote “No.” Tinkering with the constitution by adding vague, undefined terms invites unelected judges to interpret the vague undefined terms.
The drafters of Article 22 intentionally refrained from explicitly using the word “abortion.” Why? Because with vagueness comes a need for interpretation by unelected judges spurred by lawsuits filed by clever lawyers; the resulting interpretations of Article 22 will take the law into unknown territory – perhaps, for example, creating a condition for medical licensure forcing doctors and others to participate in abortions or risk forfeiting their licenses or prohibit licensure of pregnancy resource centers for failing to offer abortions.
Who knows what else in this “gender-fluid” age in which we live?
The proponents have admitted as much. According to Vermonters for Good Government, Vermont State Senator Ginny Lyons, D-Chittenden said in 2019, “It [reproductive autonomy] will allow for the [Vermont] Supreme Court interpretation, going further, on these things coming up in the future.” And Brynn Hare, Legislative Council said, “Well, I think, you know, as I’ve said before, the court will interpret the extent to which the right to personal reproductive autonomy, the extent to what that protects.”
The amendment is not only dangerously vague but also unnecessary, given the current state of Vermont law. Vermont simply has no restrictions on abortion. The overturning of Roe does not impact access to abortion in Vermont. In fact, Vermont has a statute, Act 47 (found in Title 18, Chapter 223) which explicitly prohibits any restrictions on abortion. Any proposed Vermont abortion restriction (whether parental notification, age limits, restrictions on late-term abortion or outright prohibition) would not only require some legislation, but presumably Act 47 would first need to be repealed.
It is noteworthy – Act 47 explicitly mentions “abortion” which the proposed constitutional amendment does not. Obviously, those proposing to amend the constitution want to go beyond abortion into unknown territory. Vermonters should vote NO on Article 22. The amendment is not only unnecessary it creates a Pandora’s Box of consequences to be determined by the courts in the years and decades to come.
The author is a Barre City resident, candidate for the Vermont House of Representatives, former Washington County State’s Attorney, and coordinator of Barre’s annual 40 Days for Life, a prayer vigil for the unborn at risk of abortion.