MONTPELIER — In a vote of 26 to four, the Vermont Senate on Friday passed Proposal 5, a constitutional amendment ensuring that “every Vermonter is afforded personal, reproductive liberty,” sending it straight to the House before voters potentially get a crack at it in Vermont’s 2022 general election.
“Prop five covers the most intimate decisions we make about our lives,” said Sen. Ginny Lyons, D-Chittenden. “If approved, it will ensure reproductive liberty for family planning, contraception, and decisions important to both men and women. Decisions supported by medical ethics, and medical practice, not encumbered by government interference.”
“This amendment is in keeping with the values espoused by the current Vermont Constitution,” the passed article states. “That all persons are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights ... That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people ... that all people should be afforded all the benefits and protections bestowed by the government, and that the government should not confer special advantages upon the privileged … (to) ensure that government does not create or perpetuate the legal, social, or economic inferiority of any class of people.”
Since 1992, senators alleged that federal Supreme Court decisions have begun to weaken Roe v. Wade, given the conservative nature of the Supreme Court, and Lyons alleged that Roe may be “further undermined” in the future.
“If that should happen, decisions on reproductive autonomy will be left to the states,” Lyons said. “Without Roe in place, states will regulate reproductive autonomy ... the right to choose or refuse contraception, the right to choose or refuse sterilization, the right to choose to become pregnant, and the right to choose abortion, is a fundamental right to be protected.”
Lyons cited a surge in abortion bans being proposed and approved throughout the country, including access to women's healthcare.
Sen. Ruth Hardy, D-Addison, spoke passionately about how her own mother brought her to a march in the 1980s, and how she said her mother taught her to stand up for herself and her rights as a woman, and as a citizen. Her mother passed away mere weeks ago, and Hardy said this was her proud moment to cast her opinion in the name of the woman who inspired, raised and empowered her.
“Vermonters will be able to vote on whether to affirm that an individual’s right to personal, reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course,” Hardy said. “This means the ability to make personal choices about when, if and how to get or remain pregnant. Whether and how to control fertility, and when and with whom to have sex.”
Sen. Brian Collamore, R-Rutland, said he did not support the proposal, as did Sens. Russ Ingalls (R-EssexOrleans), Robert Starr (R-Essex Orleans) Joshua Terenzini (R-Rutland).
None of the opposition offered comment on the proposal, but all are Republican senators.
“(My mother) had come of age in an era when women did not have reproductive autonomy,” Hardy said. “She experienced what that meant, for her and the women in her life…(I learned) that our future was dependent on our ability to protect the rights of women, to reproductive autonomy, liberty and dignity. I have been fighting for those rights ever since.”