The Vermont House overwhelmingly passed Thursday a sweeping, no-limits abortion bill that makes terminating a pregnancy a “fundamental right” and ensures access to the procedure at every stage of gestation.
H.57 was approved by a vote of 106-36 after legislators defeated a dozen proposed amendments offered by Republicans, including provisions requiring a 48-hour waiting period, parental notification for minors and a cut-off at 24 weeks’ gestation except in medical emergencies.
“I trust women. Therefore I cast my vote in favor of codifying protections Vermonters already have in safeguarding this fundamental reproductive right,” said state Rep. Becca White, Hartford Democrat, in her floor speech.
Meanwhile, Vermont Right to Life executive director Mary Hahn Beerworth blasted Democrats for rejecting “common-sense amendments to protect minor girls, to limit abortions on unborn babies in the later states of development, to provide informed consent (including alternatives to abortion), to provide regulation and inspection of abortion clinics.”
“It is official. The Vermont Democrat Party now holds the dubious distinction of being the party of unlimited, unrestricted and unregulated abortion-on-demand throughout pregnancy,” Ms. Beerworth said in a statement.
The legislation, which now goes to the Democrat-controlled Senate, was seen by some as superfluous, given that Vermont already has no restrictions on abortion, but sponsors argued that the bill was necessary to guarantee the status quo if the Supreme Court overturns the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
“We cannot sit still when reproductive rights are under attack across the country,” said the Vermont House Democrats in a Thursday tweet.
The Vermont legislation is viewed as the most far-reaching of this year’s state bills aimed at erecting a bulwark against President Trump’s judicial appointments.
That includes the New York and Virginia measures, which only allowed late-term abortions to protect the health of the pregnant woman. Pro-lifers pooh-pooh such restrictions though, pointing out that “health exceptions” include mental and emotional health.
The New York bill was signed into law last month, while the Virginia measure was killed by Republicans in committee. Other states seeking to expand abortion access and codify it into state law include Illinois, New Mexico and Rhode Island.
The Vermont bill also forbids government entities from interfering with abortion access and law enforcement from prosecuting “any individual” — doctor or otherwise — who performs or attempts an abortion.
During the floor debate, state Rep. Anne Donahue, Northfield Republican, argued that a parental-notification amendment was “not about limiting access. This is about protecting children — protecting those who are not yet at the point of having full maturity to make a decision,” according to WCAX3 in Burlington.
Countered state Rep. Robin Chesnut-Tangerman, Middletown Springs Progressive: “To require a young woman to turn to her family is not necessarily in her welfare.”
Pro-life advocates argued that the absence of restrictions, including the provision allowing abortion providers who aren’t doctors, could pave the way for cases like Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist convicted of murdering three newborns, but legislators rejected an amendment requiring increased safety and inspection standards for abortion facilities.
“This bill doesn’t have any bumpers around it,” said Minority Leader Pattie McCoy, Poultney Republican, in VTDigger. “I’d like to see some bumpers.”
Gov. Phil Scott, a pro-choice Republican, has said he supports protecting abortion access but without saying whether he would sign a specific bill.