by Guy Page
Tuesday the Senate Rules committee met to take the next steps on two proposed amendments to the Vermont Constitution, including Proposal 5 which “seeks to ensure the personal reproductive liberty of every Vermonter,” according to a statement from Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint (D-Windham). The Constitution requires that, following the initial adoption of proposed changes, in the next legislative biennium a new legislature must concur with the change in order for it to move forward.
In the last biennium, the legislature passed two proposed constitutional amendments – Proposal 5 and Proposal 2, which seeks to clarify that slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.
Following Senate Rule 83, the Senate Rules Committee voted today to place the amendments on the Senate Calendar. The rule requires six legislative days of notice before any Senate action on the proposals on the seventh day. The Senate will vote whether or not to concur with these amendments Friday, April 9.
Following the committee meeting, Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint said, “We recognize that there is a great deal of weight and history behind any changes to the Vermont Constitution. Both of these proposals have strong, bipartisan support in the Senate. They help better ensure essential liberties for Vermonters and enshrine our shared values of freedom and justice. We look forward to taking this next step to strengthen our State Constitution.”
Following the Senate vote, the House must also concur, and then the amendments are put to Vermonters for a direct vote next November.
Both Vermont Right to Life and the Vermont ACLU urged that abortion be mentioned specifically in both Prop 5 and the document explaining the purpose for the proposal. However, the Senate refused to do so – likely because it is intended to enshrine in the Constitution not only abortion rights, but also access to transgender surgery and therapy and other issues related to reproduction.
“Proposal 5 is a legislative proposal to amend the Vermont Constitution with pro-abortion language,” Vermont Right to Life Executive Director Mary Beerworth told Vermont Daily recently. “Proponents of Proposal 5 have stated publicly that their goal is to ensure unlimited, unregulated abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. The final language is below. It has already progressed through the first phase of the amendment process by being approved by both the Vermont House and Senate in 2019. If the language is approved again in the 2021-2022 legislative session, Article 22 will appear on your general election ballot for a “Yes” or “No” vote in November of 2022.”
Here’s how the Prop 5 language will appear on the ballot in 2022:
Article 22. Personal reproductive liberty. – 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.