By Annisa Lamberton
In January the Vermont House will vote on whether to advance a constitutional amendment, Article 22 [personal reproductive liberty], to the November 2022 ballot; it would add the following language 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.”
This amendment is being sold as “codifying” Roe v. Wade, but it guarantees abortion on demand through nine months of pregnancy. This does not reflect a majority of Vermonters’ values.
Sixty-seven percent of Vermonters consider themselves pro-choice, according to a 2020 statewide survey commissioned by Vermonters for the Common Good; 55 percent believe there should be some restrictions on abortion throughout the entire pregnancy. Article 22 would effectively eliminate the state’s ability to regulate abortion up to the day of birth.
Fifty-three percent of those surveyed support parental notification if a minor seeks an abortion. Proposal 5 would prohibit a physician or clinic from notifying a parent.
A 2019 survey by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops found that 83 percent of those surveyed don’t believe doctors and nurses should be forced to perform procedures that pose “a moral or ethical conflict” for them. Some legal analysts believe Proposal 5, since it confers a right, would require doctors and nurses to participate in abortions or sterilizations regardless of their personal beliefs or even against their best medical judgment. Because of this, many may choose not to work in Vermont.
Understanding of fetal development and current medical technology have come a long way in the 50 years since Roe v. Wade. It makes sense that we as a society are having a renewed debate about these issues. Whatever the outcome, the laws of our state and especially our Constitution should be an accurate reflection of our shared values. Article 22 is not that.
The Vermont House is expected to vote on Proposal 5 in January, sending the issue before voters in November 2022. If that happens, let’s make sure the debate is vigorous and informed, so voters understand the potentially unforeseen consequences of Article 22.
Annisa Lamberton is a spokesperson for Vermonters for the Common Good.
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