Koch: Article 22 will probably pass – but it shouldn’t

by Tom Koch

Here is the full text of Article 22, which is on the ballots that are about to be mailed to every voter in Vermont and would add Section 2, Article 22 to the Vermont Constitution:

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.

Tom Koch

Article 22 sounds harmless and will probably pass on November 8.

But it shouldn’t.  Why not?

First, it is completely unnecessary.  For the last 50 years, since the case of Roe v. Wade was decided, the Vermont legislature—and I think it is safe to say, a substantial majority of Vermont’s citizens, myself included—support abortion to some degree, usually with some restrictions.  Two years ago, the legislature passed the most sweeping endorsement of abortion rights in the nation.  Our law now legalizes late term abortions—including, in extreme cases, the killing of a perfectly healthy baby ready for birth after a full term pregnancy.  Our laws also endorse giving an abortion to a young girl—12 years old, perhaps—without ever having her parents know about it.  I would venture to predict that none of that is about to change in the foreseeable future.  A strong majority of Democrats, and a significant number of Republicans, support abortion, and no constitutional amendment is needed to prevent the current law from being amended.

Second, nobody—and I mean nobody—can tell you what this proposed amendment really means.  The term “personal reproductive autonomy” is not defined anywhere in Vermont or American jurisprudence.  It is a term invented for this proposed amendment, but even the sponsors of the amendment admit that they do not know what the term means.  When asked about the meaning, their answer was, “The courts will have to decide.”  Well, when I was a legislator, I thought part of my job was to make sure that the legislative intent was perfectly clear in the written words that the legislature passed, and if the wording of a bill was vague, I voted against it.  Putting it bluntly, it is absolutely irresponsible to pass legislation if you don’t know what it means.

Third,  note the reference to “an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy.”  The proposal doesn’t say “a woman’s” right, but rather “an individual’s” right.  If nothing else is clear in this proposal, it is that it would recognize a right that extends beyond women.  So—and the courts will have to decide this as well—does the proposed amendment give the father of a fetus some rights that men have never had before?  Ever since Roe v. Wade, people have spoken about “a woman’s right to do what she wants with her body,” and that the matter of an abortion is “between a woman and her physician.”  Does this amendment now change that? Suppose a woman wants to carry her baby to term, but the father wants her to have an abortion; does a court now get to decide the baby’s fate?  

Fourth,  the advocates for this amendment will tell you that its purpose is to protect a woman’s right to an abortion, in view of the recent United States Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade.  But if that is the case, where is the word “abortion” in this amendment?  It’s simply not there, and it would have been very easy to put it there, and when key words are deliberately omitted, I always wonder what else is going on! Human cloning, perhaps?  Genetic engineering such as we have never even imagined?  I don’t know, but the possibilities are myriad.

Fifth,  this proposal goes far beyond Roe v. Wade.  While some proponents will try to tell you that all the proposal does is write Roe into our state Constitution, now that the United States Supreme Court has overruled Roe, that is clearly not the case.  Roe v. Wade never protected a woman’s right to have a late term abortion, and it never forbade parental notification when a child (and I mean child, not woman) was seeking an abortion, so long as there was a judicial by-pass if the child had legitimate reasons why her parents should not be notified.  No, this proposed amendment to Vermont’s Constitution goes far beyond Roe v. Wade.  How far, and in what direction or directions, we will know only if we take the risk and pass this amendment.

As I said at the beginning of this article, Article 22 probably will pass.  But it should not, and I hope I have sufficiently made clear some of the reasons why it should be defeated.

Tom Koch is a resident of Barre Town and represented the town in the Vermont House of Representatives for 22 years.

Categories: Commentary

13 replies »

  1. “…. 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.”

    To repeat – “…unless justified by a compelling State interest.”

    And just what might a ‘compelling State interest’ be? Specifically?

    It doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s a State interest, not an autonomous individual liberty.

    • The “compelling state interest” clause is there to make sure that men can’t get out of the responsibilities of fatherhood, (i.e. child support,) the same way that women can get out of the responsibilities of motherhood via abortion or safe haven laws.

      • Then why doesn’t the legislation state that caveat, in detail?

        Yes, this is a rhetorical question. The fact of the matter is that this legislation doesn’t take ANYTHING specific into consideration, let alone your obscure assumption.

      • That might be what is assumed to be the intent. That is not what is written. What this does allow is for the State to decide. What is meant by “compelling interest” is not defined and is sure to change over time. Where is personal freedom in a constitutional right (above a law!) which puts the interests of the State first?

  2. Re: “I think it is safe to say, a substantial majority of Vermont’s citizens, myself included—support abortion to some degree, usually with some restrictions.”

    This point is a continued irresponsible equivocation. To “support abortion to some degree” means what? To what degree?

  3. Why is it the same people screaming bodily autonomy in regards to 22 are the same people that wanted to madate experimental injections?

  4. Hmmm, not be infringed? I think I read that somewhere before. What posers and frauds. Let me get this straight, the same politicians who want no infringement on abortion rights which kills thousands of unborn children a year want to take away our gun rights because too many people are being killed.

    “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful, murder respectable and give an appearance of solidarity to pure wind”. George Orwell

  5. Art 22 is poorly written, if passed child molestation and sexual assault will become legal under “reproductive autonomy”

  6. Ask these questions before you vote, who, what, when where, how and why?
    Who is it for, what is the right established by the amendment, when can it be applied, how can it be applied and why is it needed? I bet none of the sponsors can answer those questions and if you can’t, you should vote no! If this is a right, why does the state get to have a compelling interest? That means the bank of government attorneys could dream up almost anything to qualify for a compelling interest. This is a word salad amendment, toss it up add some issues for taste and serve it to the courts for their critique.

  7. Tom, I agree with all you have stated, and for many reasons. I know I have already addressed this issue several times, incl. an article in this venue, but I will again. Just in case there are some that have not read my story. I will keep it brief here, but when I was working as a surgical nurse in Calif. I was forced to assist with the delivery of failed saline injection to abort the fetus/baby. When the surgeon handed the baby t me it was breathing but expired in my hands. I will spare you the rest of the story, but I still recall it like it was yesterday, and I am constantly reminded with Article 22. While I was out and about recently, I kept seeing those “pro signs”, and I wanted to stop and knock-on doors to share my story, but I wasn’t feeling like getting into a heated “discussion”. Maybe I should. Yes-the same thing can happen here in Vt. with Article 22.

  8. And who will pay the price if it passes? The children who get their breasts removed or get castrated and will get experimented on only to find out they still are not happy so they now want to kill themselves?? Their parents who now have to bury their children? Or the tax payers of Vermont who will be paying for every procedure????? Tell me who wins besides planned parenthood (because they want to perform these procedures)and why this abomination should pass!!!! Mary

  9. Since voter fraud contributed to this legislation being passed by an illegitimate legislature, this and all other laws will be reversed and mute. The evidence is covered up, but not for long – fraud and corruption will not stand.

  10. When something just does not make sense, it is too often by design. Why else would a legislature have created a law that no one can really explain? I will vote “NO” on Proposal 5 / Article 22.

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