House votes for constitutional amendment to allow abortion until moment of birth

Michael Bielawski/TNR

ALL-ACCESS ABORTION: The House Chamber on Tuesday voted in favor of allowing access to abortion up to the moment of birth.

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House of Representatives on Tuesday voted 106-38 for a constitutional amendment that would give Vermonters a fundamental right to kill a fetus at any stage of pregnancy up until the moment of birth, unless infringement of that right is “justified by a compelling State interest.”

Earlier in the session, the Senate voted 28-2 in favor of Proposal 5. The amendment must pass both chambers again in 2022, and then go before voters in November of that year.

Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, was quick to post about the event on social media.

Ann Pugh, D-South Burlington and chair of the House Committee on Human Services, introduced the bill.

“We have long recognized that the decisions related to reproductive health care and abortion are deeply personal, private, and are best left to a woman and her doctor,” she said. “If Vermonters affirm these values by voting yes, Proposition 5 will place those values in the Vermont Constitution.”

She also talked about the status of abortion at the national level.

“While the right to reproductive autonomy, and particularly abortion care, remains for the time being a fundamental right at the national level, it has been, and is, under serious attack. In this turbulent time, clarity is called for,” she said.

If voters in Vermont approve Proposal 5 in 2022, the following language would be added 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.”

House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy, R-Poultney, noted that the vote represents a major milestone for Vermont politics.

“This is a pretty powerful thing to open up the constitution,” she said. “I was a town clerk for 26 year and I remember once having a proposition come up to a vote by the people. To have two or three in one session is a really big deal.”

She also said the scenario is different than if H.57, a different abortion bill, becomes law.

“H.57 is a bill that can be amended or changed down the road,” she said. “But if this passes it’s going to be very difficult to undo a constitutional amendment.”

Rep. Vicki Strong, R-Albany, in a meeting of the Republican caucus, said Vermont is taking abortion rights to an excessive level.

“I just want to make sure you are all aware that this is making news all across the country,” she said. “We are going to this extreme, and I’ve heard from alumni from my college from 40 years ago, who are hearing about this in Texas, and emailing me saying to stand strong for life.”

Rep. Mark Higley, R-Lowell, noted that Vermont is moving counter to most other states on the issue of abortion.

“One of the things that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around recently is, there are 41 other states that have tried to pass abortion restrictions this year alone. … Are we wrong or are they wrong?” he said. “We are at such odds in regards to this that I just can’t imagine that they are all wrong, and I know for a fact that we do so much on the other extreme. Maybe there’s a middle-ground, but it’s definitely not in Proposal 5 and it’s not in this wording.”

Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, noted that were this language to become an official part of the Vermont Constitution, it’s going to put every pro-life lawmaker in an impossible predicament when it comes to swearing to uphold the constitution.

“I’m incredulous that we would be adding a constitutional amendment to protect the rights of abortion with no consideration for Vermonters who cannot support that position and who need to be able to take a voters oath to uphold the constitution, which would now include something that they cannot support,” she said.

“I’m incredulous that this issue never arose in the committee; it never occurred to someone, or if it did it was not something to be investigated,” she said.

Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, reminded that the writers of the Vermont Constitution wrote that rights begin at birth during a time when little was known about the development of the fetus in the womb.

“We know so much more than when our constitution was written; we know so much more about how the moment of birth is not the beginning of life and perhaps should not be the point where we first attribute the rights of life and liberty,” she said.

She also cautioned that the concept of “reproductive autonomy” could be reinterpreted in unintended ways by future generations.

“Although it’s presented as meaning contraception, sterilization and abortion, in fact, that’s not what it says,” she said. “It’s a much broader term, it’s a term far more open to interpretation and, in fact, could mean a great many things that we don’t currently envision.”

Donahue said it could, for example, be interpreted as the right of men to not be forced into parenthood.

While Pugh suggested that’s not what the language means, Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, said it could be an issue.

“I’m seriously trying to find out whether we are going to be putting at risk reproductive rights as a result of this, and if we are putting at risk children who should be supported by their fathers,” Scheuermann said.

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

CLARIFICATION: This story was updated at 3:48 p.m. May 8 to clarify that Proposal 5 preserves the state’s authority to potentially restrict “an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy” if such a restriction can be “justified by a compelling state interest.” As Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, writes in a comment: “Vermont has always been authorized to enact legislation protecting a viable fetus, although it has never had the votes to do so. That authorization argument would still be available with Prop 5.”

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

30 thoughts on “House votes for constitutional amendment to allow abortion until moment of birth

  1. It is Sen. Benning, not the article’s headline, that needs to be corrected. Prop 5 is not Roe v. Wade. It would be interpreted by State courts in light of the discussions and deliberations that took place around its passage. It is clear from the testimony around Prop 5, and the contemporaneous passage of H. 57, that the intent of Prop 5 is to protect an unlimited right to abortion throughout pregnancy.

    When asked by Legislative Committees what might constitute a “compelling state interest” under Proposal 5, witnesses from Legislative Counsel and the Attorney General’s office would not speculate, and certainly did not suggest, as Sen. Benning does, that it includes an interest in prenatal life at any stage of development.

    As noted constitutional scholar Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University states:
    “Words and phrases, including those used in statutes and constitutional provisions, are properly construed to mean what they were, at the time of ratification, publicly understood to mean. We assume that the framers and ratifiers of the words and phrases intended them in this sense unless they specifically define them to mean something else. 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. That is undoubtedly how this language, would be interpreted by the Vermont courts”

    • Thank you for calling out the lies, it’s not even spin. The groups against truth, freedoms and our country are getting bigger.

      We changing our acronym to accommodate the bigger tent they are making, we’re calling them

      Now, Prssc…(now prissy)…(new world order, progressives, rino’s, social justice warriors, socialists and communists)

      Kennedy Democrats, Independants, Libertarians and Conservatives need to work together. Guess that might make us Lickd……not sure if I like that acronym. I’m sick of losing in this state. Maybe we could be the Richards…..instead of Dickl… with words.

      Great post Sharon, bet that would never see the light of day on Vermont Digger.

  2. reproductive health care and abortion are deeply personal, private, and are best left to a woman and her doctor…..

    Except they are always asking the state and men to chip in…..can’t have it both ways ladies, this isn’t make believe it’s reality.

    Is it a baby that’s created? Ok, then men need to pony up. Is it POC (product of conception) then men are only required (1/2 expense as it took two) to have the product of conception removed. Since they have not created a baby, the state has not created a baby, only the woman has chosen to “make” product of conception a baby, the woman is therefore solely responsible for the financial and well being of their baby.

    The selfishness and one sided discussions of this topic are so illogical and shallow, Vermont will be known as the state that totally overturned Roe V. Wade.


    People under 10 lbs will be rejoicing across the land at that point.

  3. We all know that the majority of this legislature stands with Planned Parenthood so naturally they would support Prop 5.. This legislature pretended to listen to the concerns of Vermonters but they totally dismissed all the excellent testimony against Prop5.. This legislature refused to be reasonable and continues to deceive Vermonters as to the real intent of Prop 5. The Vermont people will vote against Prop 5. We do not want this in our Constitution.

    • Vote against it and vote any and all legislators who voted for it,it beyond time for a wholesale replacement of legislators in Montpelier.

  4. The author of this article’s headline needs to be corrected. Prop 5 does NOT authorize the termination of a viable fetus. The United States Supreme Court in Rowe v. Wade specifically ruled that a state could impose restrictions on abortions during the third trimester when the fetus was deemed viable. Specifically, it ruled that the state had a “compelling state interest” at that point to preserve that baby. Prop 5 explicitly preserves that balancing test, so the contention that a fetus can be terminated up to the moment of birth (or as some commentators have suggested: after birth) under Prop 5 is absolutely false.

    H.57, on the other hand, reverses the Rowe balancing test to imply that a fetus has no independent right to protection at any stage. It thus runs contrary to both Rowe and Prop 5. When H.57 was originally proposed it explicitly stated that a fetus would have no independent rights in Vermont. This blatantly offensive statement was removed during committee process, but the implication still remains since Rowe’s and Prop 5’s “compelling state interest” language is absent.

    Vermont has always been authorized to enact legislation protecting a viable fetus, although it has never had the votes to do so. That authorization argument would still be available with Prop 5. Whether you agree or disagree with abortion, it behooves all of us to at least be clear on what Rowe and Prop 5 actually say when compared with H.57. Conflating them all serves nobody well. This article’s headline falls into the category of “fake news.”

    • This so called amendment is couched in such nonsense equivications that one could ask why does not the sperm donor have the right to create abortion demands or to demand that a pregnancy be brought to full term. The wording is approximately meaningless.

    • As you quoted “The United States Supreme Court in Rowe v. Wade specifically ruled that a state could impose restrictions on abortions during the third trimester when the fetus was deemed viable” Why need a Constitutional Amendment?. R & W defined the matter, why expand it?

      Many states have recently passed legislation prohibiting abortion beyond 6 weeks or when a heart beat is detected. VT is the opposite. Pass a Constitutional right for any time.

      Not stated was the VT legislature wants an Constitutional Amendment to include beyond birth as Plugh’s involvement. This is beyond reason. A couple of articles (Liberal) about this seemingly diff than yours.

      In the article notes that supporter Sen. Becca Balint (D-Windham) is from Germany.

      Plugh’s H57 wording is “An act relating to preserving the right to abortion”
      There’s legalese here. Titles are a camouflage as to the real meanings and the laws can lead to atrocities. They rely on people just reading titles and don’t take time to read the fine print. Haven’t seen any language at what time of breathing, immediate or a year.

      I pay attention to details that can make or break you.

      Fine example of wording from the Dome:
      Example: Rep Chris Bates of Bennington, from IA. Introduced a bill H211 banning air guns. I challenged him. Here is the correspondence:

      Bate’s bill H211 states “An act relating to prohibiting the use of air guns to take big game”

      I have contacted air rifle manufactures, personally met with one in MO and the guns are great.

      My correspondence to illustrate (observe the bill title closely).

      To Chris Bates:
      H 211 What is your problem with air guns? They are very safe and efficient. Are you on a course to outlaw all guns, which it seems to be in Montpelier. Are pea shooters next?
      This is outright stupidity. Give a reason or does it fall in the scope to control people at any junction? What outside source influenced you? Is it money?
      Thanks for coming to VT to ruin our way of life, which is very gun safe.

      This is limited knowledge!!!!

      His response:
      Hi Tom,
      I don’t want to outlaw the Air rifle at all! I am surprised you would think that after you read the bill, I am an Outdoor Tv host I was approached by an air rifle Mfg and wanted me to use one of their 50 Cal air rifles on a deer hunt, I was very reluctant to say the least, as I prefer my 30/30, anyway I agreed to the hunt, I was 40 yards for the deer I hit it smack dab in the kill zone, the deer jumped just like it was hit only it didn’t fall, My cameraman was filming the whole time, within 5 min the deer took off, we went to look for blood NOTHING, I was damn sure I hit the deer , and I was right I did, I looked at the footage the 250 grain pellet never penetrated the deer !!!!!~!!! so as you could imagine the F word was flying, and of course I immediately said the air rifle was junk!

      So I did some checking with the Mfg of the air rifle, they are tested at 72 degrees and on gel, out of this air rifle the 250 gr pellet has an fps of 680 for what its worth my Sheridan .22 air rifle flys at 1200 fps, also the cold weather has an impact as well on the velocity of the impact hitting the animal, there is a company that makes one the .45 cal flys at 1100 fps in 65 degree weather

      These guns are awesome for small game and pigs and maybe coyotes, just not for our deer and Bear in Vermont, would you use one on a black bear or a deer ? or would you use your centerfire?
      I have talked to alot of deer hunters in Vermont and agree that they couldn’t choose that over their centerfires and quite frankly neither would I!

      Thank you for your input its always welcome
      Representative Chris Bates

      PS I tried to access the bill, where is it?
      This is the devious language from the Dome. Abortion—H.57 is OK by them. Trust no one there or their words.

      Legalese gobble gook. Constituents are against legalese professional masters. Is there any wonder why the Dome crowd can’t be trusted? Anyone can research sources from various angles to get the truth.

      Want more examples?

    • Unless your just a very small person, that doesn’t count. People under 10 lbs have no rights according to the master minds in the Vermont legislature.

  5. As I’ve stated in other TNR articles Gov and the people within are all about money and the outside money sources. People such as Pugh understand this, not about ethics, but money.

    For reference, the money:
    FDA Buys Baby Body Parts from Company Investigated for Selling Human Tissue for Profit

    The unborn and recently born in VT is a money machine. Pugh and et al must be involved. Otherwise it makes no sense. Follow the money. Many Google sites can be observed, not from one biased source.

  6. Ann Pugh, D-South Burlington and chair of the House Committee on Human Services

    She is a mental disaster. Kids shoot up a school so all people are subjected to gun control.

    When a legislator (in a legal position) desires to kill far many more innocent babies, there’s no control. It should NOT be a Constitution consideration to legalize. Many states have passed laws governing this matter being common sense. Not in VT such as Pugh. Too bad she wasn’t aborted.

    The legislators should but it on a ballot for each town and get the populace input and finalize it. This is a public issue, not a stupid Flatland issue.

    VT has open borders for stupid Flatlanders to migrate to the Dome.

    • They don’t think about that fact,they wouldn’t be for the legal institution of wanton murder because they would have been murdered.

  7. What else can you expect from the Dome controllers?

    They follow the direction of G Soros and the New World Order. People that voted for these sub-human people (Baruth and the Chittenden Country mafia) are out of any mental capacity to understand and go their La La way. They become uncountable to anyone, they are the POWER.

    It is definitely a MAFIA MACHINE taking orders and money from outside sources. When money talks, common sense is not integrated within. They are mere Howdy Doody puppets.

    When the pied pipers become capable of slight dilemmas from normalcy and understand there are boundaries of human rightness and morals THEN the mafia people will be in the trash.

    How long will it take, more legal killings, drugs, taxes, regulations, bureaucrats, Court judges, controlling tax dept, stupid local taxing people and et al. The Dome needs a fence, to protect the residents. This is an invasion of a few (from the Flatlands) to control the multitudes.

  8. This demonstrates, once again, that liberal/socialism in immoral and without any sense of human compassion. I hope they all rot in Hell.

  9. What is the VT brand now? What is its legacy of most notable achievements? Let’s see . . . Eugenics, liberal swamp politics, last place on any national development metrics survey, confiscatory taxation, Bernie Sanders, maple syrup, milk, snow, good skiing and infanticide.

  10. God help us,the Fascist Taliban in Montpelier are in favor of state sanctioned murder . At the same time trying to prevent suicide by infringing on Vermonters 2 nd. and article 16 rights and have the nerve to say “If It Saves Just One Life It’s Worth It”,well which is it.

  11. People around the world have been held responsible for their leadership and control over a helpless group of people. The decent law biding, responsible Vermonters are being bulldozed by people like Mitzi Johnson into a world similar to NAZI Germany. Watch out, because evil always gets defeated and the bad guys get put away. I don’t know where Mitzi and her cohorts come from but I know that they do not reflect the morals and values of native Vermonters. I love Vermont but I have grown to hate the one party dictatorship of Vermont and the entire Northeast. My god! Andrew Coumo is already looking for a fourth term!

    • These fools will be called to atone just like those who participated in the atrocities in Nazi Germany during the Nuremberg trials. They’ve built so much cognitive dissidence into their view of reality that they think just because they don’t call a thing what it is, murder, they won’t have to face the piper. Or they are taking so “donation” from lobbyists that they are happy compromise on what’s morally right so they can have what’s “morally right for them.”

      So how do we make sure only Vermont residents are voting in 2022? Not bussed in college utopianists and women who think (have to maintain the lie for their own mental stability or have been sold the lie) murdering their own child is the answer to reproductive “equality” with men.

      • You response is perfect! It is murder. Mitzi and her cute little terms like, “reproductive liberty” and “abortion health” sicken me. All the legislators that voted for Prop 5 should be required to witness a late term abortion! Thank you for caring.

  12. So based on these numbers, there were quite a few republicans voting for this bill as well. I look forward to seeing how the voting went.

  13. It is my understanding that this will eventually get to the people to pass judgement on. I have a lot more faith in the people than I do the boneheads in the Legislature. That may our only hope.
    God help us.

  14. God help us. I knew it would end this way, but it is still jaw dropping when you read the awful results. Vote out Ann Pugh and all the other confused sick minded legislators that agreed with her.

  15. MONTPELIER — The Vermont House of Representatives on Tuesday voted 106-38 for
    a constitutional amendment that would give Vermonters a fundamental right to kill at
    any stage of pregnancy up until the moment of birth !!!.

    Vote these fools out of office, before they kill us all.

  16. “reproductive health care”

    It has nothing to do with reproductive care, which would promote having babies
    rather then DESTROYING BABIES. I hope the leftist fascist are sent to the pits
    of hell for this abomination on LIFE…Did they celebrate the occasion by drinking
    aborted baby blood supplied by their ARMS dealer Planned Parenthood??

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