Two abortion-rights measures took significant steps forward in Vermont’s Legislature Tuesday, as supporters argued that the state must enact protections that are eroding nationally. Proposal 5, a state constitutional amendment protecting “personal reproductive autonomy,” passed the House on a 106-38 vote. And the Senate gave preliminary approval on a 24-6 vote to H.57, a bill that says state government can’t hinder access to abortion.
Both pieces of legislation were spurred by concerns that political and judicial changes at the federal level could jeopardize the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973. “Without protections in Roe v. Wade, women do not have any reassurance that they will have continued access to family planning, to basic health care, to abortion,” said Sen. Ginny Lyons, D-Chittenden, chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. But others say the state is going too far, particularly in regard to Proposal 5’s potential changes to the Constitution. Rep. James Gregoire, R-Fairfield, noted that abortion is still “completely legal in Vermont.” “Amending the constitution is unnecessary,” Gregoire said. “Opening up this process should remain a last resort. This is not a last-resort scenario.” While the two abortion bills are moving concurrently through the Legislature, they have different schedules for implementation.
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