Vermont abortion backers push constitutional amendment codifying Roe v. Wade
MONTPELIER, Vermont, December 21, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Fearing that the U.S. Supreme Court might overturn Roe v. Wade in the near future, pro-abortion lawmakers in Vermont are planning to amend their state constitution in hopes of insulating a state-level “right” to abortion from future elections.
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is leading the charge to get the amendment introduced in the next legislative session, Vermont Public Radio (VPR) reported, with Vermont Law School professor Peter Teachout providing advice to the lawmakers currently drafting its specific language.
Teachout acknowledged that abortion is unlikely to be banned in Vermont in the near future but said the amendment “might serve both symbolically and practically as a prophylactic against that future day when maybe the political climate in this state (…) shifted toward the right.”
“We want to make sure that should the U.S. Supreme Court push this back to the states, that we have clearly expressed affirmed rights to reproductive choice,” Democrat Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe said, citing President Donald Trump’s additions of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court.
Backing their efforts are women such as Leslie Sullivan Sachs and Lisa Kuneman, who are publicly detailing their abortion experiences in hopes of bolstering support for the amendment. “Conservative legislative trends have been terrifying,” Kuneman claimed. Many other post-abortive women testify that their experiences have made them passionately pro-life.
Vermont Right to Life has come out forcefully against the proposed amendment.
“Our first guaranteed right is the right to life, without which discussing liberty or pursuit of happiness is meaningless,” executive director Mary Beerworth said. “And I find it just personally sickening that we have a constitution that’s written based on the Declaration of Independence, which guaranteed life, and Vermont wants to write death into the constitution. Everybody knows that when you’re standing in front of a pregnant woman, there are two human persons involved.”
Beerworth also pointed out that the amendment would be overkill, as the state Supreme Court established state-level abortion “rights” similar to Roe’s in the 1972 case Beecham v. Leahy.
Such an amendment couldn’t become law until 2023 at the earliest, Seven Days explained, as it would have to pass a House majority and Senate two-thirds majority twice (once in this session, once in the next), and then be ratified by Vermonters in the 2022 elections.
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a pro-abortion Republican who scored 100 percent in Planned Parenthood’s 2018 endorsement survey, has no formal power over the amendment process but has lent the proposal his moral support.
"The Governor support’s (sic) a woman’s right to choose, and has said if action is taken at the national level that would erode this right, he’d support measures to protect it in Vermont," Scott spokeswoman Rebecca Kelley said. "He understands why the Legislature would consider a proactive step this session and we’ll be listening to those discussions."
Pro-lifers across the country fervently hope that Trump’s judicial nominees have given the Supreme Court its first 5-4 majority for overturning Roe and allowing the American people to vote directly on abortion, but the ruling’s fate remains an open question.
Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed by George W. Bush, has disillusioned pro-lifers ever since he voted in 2012 and 2015 to uphold Obamacare using intensely controversial reasoning. Both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh refused to endorse or condemn Roe during their confirmation hearings, instead saying it was entitled to respectful consideration as long-standing precedent.
Earlier this month, Roberts and Kavanaugh further alarmed pro-lifers by voting not to hear a case that involved efforts in Kansas and Louisiana to cut off Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood. Gorsuch joined conservative Justice Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in voting to take the case.