House Judiciary Committee votes to move abortion bill forward

Michael Bielawski/TNR

VOTED FOR ABORTION: Rep. Thomas Burditt, R-West Rutland, voted with his Democrat colleagues for a bill that would codify legal abortion up to the moment of birth in Vermont.

MONTPELIER — The House Judiciary Committee on Friday approved Vermont’s controversial abortion bill, H.57, after a week of review.

The bill, which has garnered national attention since being introduced in January, passed by a 9-2 vote. Rep. Kenneth Goslant, R-Northfield, and Rep. Patrick Seymour, R-Sutton, were the lone committee members to vote against the legislation.

During the morning meeting, lawmakers discussed the purpose of the bill and what it means for Vermonters if Roe v. Wade — the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide — is overturned.

Brynn Hare, legislative counsel, said Vermont currently has no restrictions on abortion and H.57 doesn’t regulate the right to abortion. Instead, the bill is “a codification of what Vermont has done for the years.”

While most Republicans oppose abortion, Rep. Thomas Burditt, R-West Rutland, voted for the bill. He offered a lengthy explanation for his yes vote while acknowledging that many of his constituents would be upset.

“I’m not voting on abortion right now; I’m just voting on whether or not what we have done and what we have written is legal or not, and it is,” he said. “I can’t vote against it because it’s legal.”

He said he may vote differently when the bill comes to the House floor, however. He added that for a hot-button issue, he has not heard from many constituents.

“As far as constituents go, I had more people contact me about [marijuana] legalization than this,” he said. “By far, it wasn’t even close. I haven’t had 25 people contact me on this issue, and I have around 8,400 constituents.”

Rep. Nader Hashim, D-Dummerston, said he supports the bill because, for him, it’s about respecting personal rights.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

Rep. Barbara Rachelson, D-Burlington, looks on during Friday’s committee hearing.

“Vermont has a very unique history of making sure people’s rights are guaranteed and asserted, and there’s also a history of respecting a person’s privacy and personal autonomy in this state,” he said.

Rep. Barbara Rachelson, D-Burlington, attempted to distance the bill from the issue of late-term abortion in America. Only about 13 percent of Americans support third-trimester abortions, according to a May 2018 Gallup poll.

“We’re not talking about advocating for late-term abortions; we’re talking about early abortion. … We’re not talking about killing babies,” she said.

Rep. Kenneth Goslant, R-Northfield, brought up the topic of abortion during the third trimester.

“I just can’t for the life of me get it through my head, unless it’s medical, that there’s a chance of the mother losing her life or something like that,” he said, raising the question of why a person might need a late-term abortion.

Hashim responded that such late abortions are rare.

“I’ve gotten emails [in which] I’ve heard about these callous evil mothers who are terminating pregnancies like eight months in when they change their minds. And the facts we’ve seen say these women simply don’t exist.”

He continued that most women seeking late-term abortion have had medical tests showing their life is in danger.

On Thursday, Vermont Right to Life Committee held a news conference at the Vermont Statehouse to oppose H.57.

Sharon Toborg, chief policy analyst for Vermont Right to Life, said during the event that the legislation would have free speech implications for critics of abortion.

“Testimony in the House Judiciary Committee confirms that schools, as public entities, would be affected by this legislation. It appears pro-abortion messages in our schools would be protected, while anti-abortion messages would be subject to restriction,” she said.

Also on Thursday, Hare, the legislative counsel, told the committee that Roe v. Wade allows states to regulate abortion after the first trimester. For the second trimester, states may regulate abortion as it pertains to the health of the mother. For the third trimester, the state may regulate abortion as it regards the fetus, which at that point is viable to live outside of the mother.

Other cases she cited include 1824 Gibbons v. Ogden, a landmark decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court established the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce via the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This ruling was used to establish the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, passed by Congress in 2003.

Another case discussed in committee was Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. This established that no law should create “a substantial obstacle in the path of a person trying to get an abortion.” Even so, the case upheld restrictions on abortion including a 24-hour waiting period and parental consent.

Importantly, Hare clarified that H.57 does not require medical providers to perform an abortion against their will.

She said what changes if Roe v. Wade is overturned depends on the extent of the language in such a decision. Looking back at the way things were prior to that ruling, she said there was “a patchwork of regulation” across the 50 states.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

11 thoughts on “House Judiciary Committee votes to move abortion bill forward

  1. Its really sick how cold people can be! Step by step just like Hitler planned. How does a person go to work each day knowing that they will be killing babies and then go home and have a little dinner watch TV and then get a good night sleep? I guess just like the SS did.

  2. VT is a welfare state. Simple solution, give out birth control devices and basic instruction to use, if you get into that “jam”. Save taxpayer money. The Libs should go for that (but not the saving money aspect).

    They have drug clinics, incorporate prevention into it. Instead of passing difficult H57 Bill why not a simple supportive action? Condoms are being passed out all over the country for more than one preventive means. Unless the newcomers to VT can’t read, give visual instructions. It’s so simple. But no intelligence behind it.

    If the legislature didn’t have to take the time for this stupid event, perhaps they would have more time learning how to tax the residents.

  3. So murder isn’t murder any more to a “person” just born. At what stage murder isn’t prolonged to include other ages (duration of life)? I haven’t seen any cut off point. Is it a day, a week, a month, 10 years, adult? Vt has eliminated the death sentence. Perhaps if some of the legislators were aborted today by the same means they sanction……???? This is genocide.

  4. They try and sanitize abortion in the third trimester by calling the BABY a fetus. It is a human life at that point, and earlier in my opinion. The left fights to make VT a sanctuary state to allow people to move in because they are looking for supporters, they don’t want to wait 18 years for a baby to grow up and vote after all they may vote conservative. Ironic that by pushing for unrestricted abortion they may in the long run be depleting their base.

  5. Thou shalt not kill, unless it is legal?

    Would that be based on a plea of self defense?

    There used to be Right or Wrong, now we have Legal to excuse Wrong!

    Does being Legal give Wrong more Virtue than being Right demands?

  6. Would someone please inform Barbara Rachelson that a baby is a baby regardless of whether it is killed in the first, second or third trimester. It is a human unborn child. It is nonsense to say “We are not talking about killing babies”. Ask any kid whose own ultrasound photo is on the first page of their baby book whether it is a baby or not.

  7. “We’re not talking about advocating for late-term abortions; we’re talking about early abortions. . . We’re not talking about killing babies.” Do you even HEAR yourselves you soulless cretins? Life begins at conception, so abortion is killing a baby . . . period! May God have mercy on you. #802VTALLIANCE

  8. So, the vote would have been 8-3 if you had stood your moral ground Tom Burditt and maybe now you would have a clear conscience. Caving to the Progressives just because you knew the vote was going to send H.57 through anyway showed us your true colors. #802VTALLIANCE

  9. Its interesting to listen to the pro-abortion wing of supporters and how each and everyone of
    them seeks to find that hole in the dike and poke a finger into it. Meanwhile we are talking about
    taking the life of a human being because someone else has decided they made a mistake along
    the way. Every life matters so we say and yet we as a society are deciding who will live and who
    will not be allowed to live in the womb. I suspect even those that gleefully giggle their way through the
    statehouse must have a moment when they look in the mirror and question who they are and
    why they have chosen the path they have. Women health is not the reason… its the excuse.

  10. The House Judiciary Committee on Friday approved Vermont’s controversial abortion bill, H57,
    after a week of review and onslaught disapproval from Vermonters !!

    But as we all know Montpelier has an agenda and caring for unborn or born Vermonters is
    not part of it………………..Tainted Politics at it’s best.

    Wake up VT, send these fools packing !!

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