Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed Monday a sweeping no-limits abortion bill, creating a “fundamental right” to the procedure as a bulwark against the Supreme Court’s 5-4 conservative majority.
Mr. Scott, a pro-choice Republican, signed the bill in private, a marked contrast from the splashy celebration that accompanied New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signing of legislation in January clearing the path for abortion through 40 weeks’ gestation.
Afterward, Mr. Scott posted a statement saying that the legislation, H. 57, “affirms what is already allowable in Vermont — protecting reproductive rights and ensuring those decisions remain between a woman and her health care provider.”
“I know this issue can be polarizing, so I appreciate the respectful tone and civility from all sides throughout this discussion,” he said.
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England CEO Meagan Gallagher said the legislation was needed to protect access to abortion, calling health care “personal, not political” for patients.
“Each and every day we see proof that abortion rights are on the line, and we cannot risk the threats to abortion access that we’re anticipating at the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Ms. Gallagher in a statement.
Meanwhile, Vermont Right to Life executive director Mary Beerworth said the governor had endorsed “unlimited, unregulated abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy” by signing the bill, which prevents the state from interfering with or restricting abortion access.
“With his signature, Gov. Scott has rejected any regulation of abortion, abortionists, and abortion clinics, including measures to protect the health and safety of girls and women,” said Vermont Right to Life. “Scott has embraced without reservation the agenda of the powerful pro-abortion lobby.”
The Vermont governor had said previously through a spokeswoman that he would not veto the bill, leaving the possibility that he could allow it to become law without his signature.
The Vermont legislature previously approved Proposal 5, which would enshrine “personal reproductive liberty” into the state constitution. The measure would have to be passed again by the 2020 state legislature and then approved by the voters on the 2022 ballot.
Supporters of H. 57 had argued that the bill was needed to protect abortion access against threats to the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. President Trump has appointed two conservatives to the court, while states like Alabama have approved bills specifically aimed at challenging Roe.
Sharon Toborg, policy analyst for Vermont Right to Life, argued that “H. 57 goes beyond Roe v. Wade and may well be the most radical anti-life law in the nation.”
While New York and Vermont expanded abortion access, a dozen red states passed bills in the 2019 legislative session narrowing the legal window for abortion, including fetal-heartbeat measures, which ban most abortions after six weeks.
Those bills are expected to be stayed as legal challenges make their way through the court system.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.