We at Vermonters for Good Government believe it is best to always examine the facts and language of any legislation, and to inform the public about all aspects of what we are up against here in Montpelier. To that end we wanted to share with you two things; 1) the process to amend the Constitution here in VT, and 2) the actual language that would be enshrined in the Constitution if we don’t put a stop to this over-reach and poorly thought out travesty. Words carry legal meaning, and the more vague and undefined they are, like in this case, the larger the Pandora’s box becomes!
It is important to note that a Constitutional amendment (or removal of an amendment) must start with the legislature. This process began at a time when the legislature was essentially closed to the public, while citizens were understandably distracted by the coronavirus pandemic and upheaval in our economy. Yet, we’re well into the process now, and citizens are just becoming aware of this Constitutional amendment at the 11th hour. The time for vigorous debate and education is now; it is not a time for rubber-stamping.
If the amendment passes on the November ballot, future generations of voters will be unable to ever start an amendment removal process, it will be out of their control, as amendments must originate in the legislature. As we look around the country, we see changing laws, opinions, and attitudes about this critically important topic. The ability to respond quickly to public sentiment is paramount to a properly functioning state government. This will remove that mechanism, and we feel it is a very dangerous precedent.
The amendment language is very simple and short, but that makes it all the more open to judicial interpretation, and unintended consequences. It is intentionally vague and opens Pandora’s box, paving the way for many dangerous ramifications.
There is nothing in this language that protects and balances the rights of parents against reproductive liberty of children.
There is nothing in this language that protects the conscience rights of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals against demands by patients, their employers, or the state.
There is nothing in this language that allows our government to create regulations designed to ensure the safety of those granted unlimited reproductive freedom.
There is nothing in this language that protects taxpayers in any way from unlimited demands.
There is nothing in this language that even specifies it applies to only women, or only to abortion rights.
There are more in-depth arguments we’ll be presenting on each of these topics. Be sure to check out the comments on our home page and the op-eds and news coverage in our media section.
The Process for Amending the Vermont constitution
An amendment must originate in the Senate and be approved by a two-thirds vote. It must then receive a majority vote in the House. Then, after a newly elected legislature is seated, the amendment must receive a majority vote in each chamber, first in the Senate, then in the House.
If a majority of both House and Senate approve the amendment in 2021, the amendment will be placed on the 2022 General Election ballot for an up or down vote by Vermonters.
PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION
OF THE STATE OF VERMONT
Offered by: Senators Ashe, Balint, Lyons and Sears
Subject: Declaration of rights; right to personal reproductive liberty
Sec. 1. PURPOSE
(a) This proposal would amend the Constitution of the State of Vermont to ensure that every Vermonter is afforded personal reproductive liberty. The Constitution is our founding legal document stating the overarching values of our society. This amendment is in keeping with the values espoused by the current Vermont Constitution. Chapter I, Article 1 declares “That all persons are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights.” Chapter I, Article 7 states “That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people.” The core value reflected in Article 7 is that all people should be afforded all the benefits and protections bestowed by the government, and that the government should not confer special advantages upon the privileged. This amendment would reassert the principles of equality and personal liberty reflected in Articles 1 and 7 and ensure that government does not create or perpetuate the legal, social, or economic inferiority of any class of people. This proposed constitutional amendment is not intended to limit the scope of rights and protections afforded by Article 7 or any other provision in the Vermont Constitution.
(b) The right to reproductive liberty is central to the exercise of personal autonomy and involves decisions people should be able to make free from compulsion of the State. Enshrining this right in the Constitution is critical to ensuring equal protection and treatment under the law and upholding the right of all people to health, dignity, independence, and freedom.
Sec. 2. Article 22 of Chapter I of the Vermont Constitution is added to read:
The language as it will appear on the ballot:
Article 22. [Personal reproductive liberty]
That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.
Sec. 3. EFFECTIVE DATE
The amendment set forth in Sec. 2 shall become a part of the Constitution of the State of Vermont on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November 2022 when ratified and adopted by the people of this State in accordance with the provisions of 17 V.S.A. chapter 32.