Despite the strong pro-choice sentiment in Vermont, more than half support establishing health and safety regulations for abortion clinics (54%), requiring a doctor or clinic to inform women about fetal development and alternatives to abortion before performing the procedure (55%), and requiring a physician or clinic to notify a parent or legal guardian before performing an abortion on a minor (53%), and agree that it should be a crime in Vermont for someone to hurt or kill an unborn child in the womb, either
Proposal 5’s stated purpose is to protect “personal reproductive autonomy.” The proposed Amendment, however, does not define “personal reproductive autonomy.” What “personal reproductive autonomy” means, therefore, will not be determined by the people of Vermont through their Legislature; rather, it will be defined by the Vermont Supreme Court. Reproductive rights may well change over time. Reproductive rights are not limited to abortion. They could include the following:
1. human cloning for reproductive purposes;
2. gestational surrogacy trafficking (achieved by in vitro fertilization and then followed by human embryo transfer, and after birth the handing over of a born human child in exchange for payment);
3. trafficking in human embryo creation (creation of a human embryo by IVF and the subsequent sale or trade of such human embryos for implantation in another’s womb for the purposes of reproduction);
4. designer babies (creation of designer embryos using gene editing techniques and the implantation and birthing of such genetically modified human beings);
Additionally, the word “autonomy” is not defined in the Proposal. This could raise the following issues:
Would this “autonomy” right undercut criminal prohibitions related to age of consent or sexual assault if a minor girl sought to become pregnant with the assistance of a man over the age of 18?
Would a minor girl’s rights to “personal reproductive autonomy” be “infringed” if such a man were prosecuted for sexual contact with the minor?
Testimony submitted to the Vermont House and Senate in 2019 by Norman Smith, Attorney at Law, Essex Junction, Vermont
In 2019, H. 57 was passed into law and is today referred to as Act 47. Vermont law currently prevents, in statute, any regulation or restriction on the practice of abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy and allows no rights or protections for an unborn child until birth.
The proposed amendment (Article 22) to the constitution would enshrine that right to an abortion through all nine months of pregnancy in our founding documents – but would leave it to the courts to interpret how the phrase “personal reproductive autonomy” could be expanded to mean. You can read the current Vermont law on abortion rights here: https://legislature.vermont.gov/Documents/2020/Docs/ACTS/ACT047/ACT047%20As%20Enacted.pdf
Planned Parenthood of Vermont has repeatedly stated the following:
“The Reproductive Liberty Amendment would guarantee ALL people in Vermont the right to become pregnant and carry a pregnancy to term; choose abortion; choose or refuse sterilization; and to choose or refuse contraception.”
The claim Planned Parenthood makes is false.
While Planned Parenthood asserts that men can become pregnant as well as women, the reality is that current science and technology cannot make that guarantee.
Furthermore, science and technology will never be able to “guarantee” that ALL Vermonters can become pregnant and carry that pregnancy to term as miscarriages, infertility and fertility treatments will always have failure rates.
This proposal takes away the voice of the Vermonters. The people of Vermont deserve to know what they are voting for and to have a voice in the future of their state government. As such, I urge you to reject Proposal 5. The lack of clarity and definition in Proposal 5 leaves the words ‘personal reproductive autonomy’ open to interpretation. Taken broadly, these words can encompass…polygamy, pedophilia, child pornography, rape, infanticide, abortion through nine months by minors without parental notification, human trafficking, and prostitution. It is the duty of the legislative body to write proposals in a way that does not force the people of Vermont to trust that a judge agrees with the people’s intended interpretation of ‘personal reproductive autonomy.”
State Rep. Anne Donahue voted against the amendment because she believes the amendment’s language is vague. Donahue pointed to the term “reproductive autonomy.”
“(The term) isn’t actually defined, and is far broader that just those categories – open to very broad future interpretation in ways not imagined or intended currently,” Donahue said in a statement to CNN.
“An obvious, current example would be how it would apply to the reproductive autonomy it would guarantee to a man who wanted to have his child born: would the state be barred from funding the woman’s abortion, as that would deny him his right to reproductive autonomy? But science is also moving forward rapidly in new means of reproduction.” The vague language could lead to multiple different interpretations of the law, she added. (CNN, May 13, 2019)
Vermont medical examiners view the loss of a fetus after 20 week gestation as a death and they will issue a birth and death certificate to the parents. In addition, Vermont also has specific regulations around the burial of an unborn child after 20 weeks gestation. (link)
However, the language in Article 22, if adopted, would prevent ANY protections for an unborn baby until birth. At just 22 weeks gestation, a fetus can feel pain and is capable of living independently of his or her mother. Science and technology have advanced to the point where babies can routinely be saved earlier and earlier in pregnancy. Article 22 ignores the science and medical advances.
“People on both sides of the debate over abortion know that “reproductive autonomy” is publicly understood to be a way of referring to an unlimited abortion license, that is, elective abortion permitted through the entire nine months of gestation and pregnancy up to and including the process of birth.”
The lack of clarity and definition in Proposal 5 leaves the words ‘personal reproductive autonomy’ open to interpretation. Taken broadly, these words can encompass…polygamy, pedophilia, child pornography, rape, infanticide, abortion through nine months by minors without parental notification, human trafficking, and prostitution. It is the duty of the legislative body to write proposals in a way that does not force the people of Vermont to trust that a judge agrees with the people’s intended interpretation of ‘personal reproductive autonomy.”
Parents and children, and ultimately our society, will be harmed by passage of Article 22 the language that is intended to amend the Vermont Constitution.
However, parents in our state must be alerted to look at the even wider ramifications, such as the damage Proposal 5 will force on our familial relationships, our laws, our schools, and our rights as citizens. This broadly worded proposal to amend our constitution uses the phrase “personal reproductive autonomy.” The phrase is increasingly becoming a catch-all for controlling free speech or promoting identity ideology, legalizing “sex work”, and mandating race relations theories, as well as establishing school policies allowing secrets that can be kept from parents about their children’s emotional, social, and physical health.
Parents, who best know their children, who most love their children, and who are most attentive to the best interests of their children, will face fighting legalized secrets about their children held by schools or clinics on topics such as pregnancy/STD testing, chemical and surgical abortions, hormone treatments, and social identities/pronouns used with their children of ALL ages. Proposal 5 is a wedge between parent and child that creates risks for a life-time. Most urgently, Proposal 5 and those who support it are, willingly or unwittingly, supporting harm to parental legal rights, parent-child relationships, and child safety. The generational harm will be devastating to a healthy Vermont. If “children are our future,” for the sake of all our futures, please stop passage of Proposal 5 and the dreadful outcomes for Vermont’s constitution and the families it should protect.