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Vermont House passes H. 57 no-limits abortion bill

February 22, 2019

The Vermont House passed overwhelmingly 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.

The bill, 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 Democratic state Rep. Becca White 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,” said Ms. Beerworth 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 preserve 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 incorporated late-term abortion exceptions to protect the health of the pregnant woman, which includes mental 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” who performs or attempts an abortion.

After a favorable 106-36 second vote in the House, legislation that would protect abortion access in Vermont without restrictions now heads to the state Senate.We’ll have full coverage up shortly. Heres our recap of yesterdays preliminary vote: #vtpolihttps://t.co/lk7VpBDSY6 VTDigger (@vtdigger) February 21, 2019

During the floor debate, Republican state Rep. Anne Donahue 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 Progressive state Rep. Robin Chestnut-Tangerman: “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 could pave the way for another Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortion doctor 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, a Republican, in VTDigger. “I’d like to see some bumpers.”

Gov. Phil Scott, a pro-choice Republican, has said he supports protecting abortion access without saying he would sign a specific bill.