By Carol Frenier
Abortion proponents say Vermont’s new “any time for any reason” abortion law (aka H.57) and the proposed abortion amendment to our Vermont Constitution merely codify what was already “allowable” in Vermont. But there is a very large difference between action that the law declares legal and the very same action if it is not addressed by government at all.
In the case of abortion, codifying common practice into law has turned something which was “allowable” into something “required” or “prohibited.” It reduced options and delegitimized alternative interpretations.
This couldn’t be more clear in H.57. This legislation is all about prohibition. It says that a public entity (government, heath care facility, etc.) “shall not … deny or interfere with an individual’s fundamental rights to choose or refuse contraception or sterilization or to choose to carry a pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to obtain an abortion.” There is more, but that is the gist of it.
Similarly, Proposal 5 would add the following to the Vermont Constitution: “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.”
Prior to H.57 and the proposed amendment, medical providers were “allowed” to establish abortion protocols that worked for them and the community in which they operated, including a commonly held respect for the right to life of the child in utero in balance with the needs of the mother. Now there is literally no time frame (seven months? eight months? 24 hours before delivery?) within which it is permissible to “interfere” with a woman’s right to abort.
Now the focus will be on avoiding behavior that could get a person or medical practice into legal trouble. If a health care provider senses that a pregnant patient is conflicted, can he/she counsel that patient to take more time to decide? Is that a form of “interference” or not? And what of the counsel of a pastor or a rabbi?
This leads us to the inferred “required” behavior contained in the law. The opposite of “denial” of services is the provision of services. If I cannot deny a service, am I absolutely required to provide it? Must the taxpayer pay for it?
Despite what proponents of this legislation say to the contrary, it is only a matter of time before GYN practitioners who refuse to do abortions as a matter of conscience will be forced to yield or be driven out of the field. And if abortion is a fundamental right, advocates will be pressing for public funds to pay for it.
Laws only work if they codify cultural practices that have widespread acceptance. We are nowhere near that in our society, and the legislature’s all-or-nothing approach to abortion is only driving our citizens apart. Do we really want to put our neighbors and medical providers into that kind of a bind? Surely a compromise that we can all live with would make more sense.
Carol Frenier is a business owner living in Chelsea, Vermont. She is the chair of the Orange County Republican Committee.