AP NEWS

Vermont House passes bill guaranteeing abortion access

February 21, 2019

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont House passed a bill Wednesday that would guarantee a woman’s right to an abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the signature decision that legalized abortion across the country.

The bill in Vermont, among the most liberal states in the country, came as abortion is being debated by a number of state legislatures. Amid concerns that a conservative-leaning high court could overturn Roe, several Democrat-controlled states have acted to strengthen protections to abortion access. Meanwhile, many Republican-controlled states are moving in the opposition direction with efforts to restrict the practice.

Proponents said the Vermont legislation is needed to ensure a woman’s right to termination no matter what happens in the U.S. Supreme Court but that the proposal would only ensure that women in the state continue to have access to abortion services that are available to them now.

“This access is something the state has valued and should continue to recognize and reinforce,” said Democrat Rep. Ann Pugh, one of the bill’s sponsors.

But opponents say the legislation could expand access to abortion in Vermont.

“Currently the most underrepresented person in the world, here in Vermont anyway, is a fetus that has not yet been born,” said Republican Rep. Carl Rosenquist, who introduced an amendment that would have recognized a viable fetus as a person under Vermont law. “It feels pain. It feels love. We don’t regard it as anything until it is born.”

The amendment was defeated largely along party lines by a vote of 41 in favor of the amendment to 106 opposed.

The bill must now go on to the Senate.

“There is strong support in the Senate,” said Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, a Democrat and Progressive.

In addition to considering the bill, the Vermont Legislature is beginning what could be a yearslong process of amending the state constitution to guarantee the same right to abortion.