A Republican lawmaker is making known her opposition to Proposal 5, a constitutional amendment that would make abortion until the moment of birth the most protected right in Vermont.
“It sets it above anything else by creating a standard,” Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, said on “The Morning Drive” radio show this week with hosts Anthony Neri and Kurt Wright. “A compelling interest standard is something that the courts develop as a way to balance interference with a constitutional right.”
Language from the proposal states that there must be no government involvement in abortions “unless justified by a compelling state interest.”
This takes major decisions on abortion policy away from elected legislators and into the seats of appointed judges, according to Donahue.
“It becomes completely a court decision, up to whatever justices are in place at a given time,” she said. She added that this would make abortion “more compelling inherently than any other right in the constitution.”
She also reminded listeners that Vermont already added state restrictions on having any new abortion laws in the past.
“The new statute that we passed just a couple of years ago was very explicit about banning the state from any kind of interference with access to any abortion,” Donahue said.”That means that in Vermont there are no restrictions permitted.”
She said that the current branding of the amendment is misleading in that “people will not make the connection and understand that this will permit abortion up through nine months.” Instead, they will hear only that it protects reproductive liberties — a positive in the minds of many Vermonters.
The proposal’s broad language is a problem, Donahue said, because it applies to more than just abortion.
“Prop 5 is undefined as to what other kinds of healthcare it might include because it basically says that any kind of reproductive liberties are preeminent, and so clearly it is intended to cover abortion, but it covers everything else that one might define as a reproductive liberty.”
She explained that if lawmakers in the future decided that their constituents want some limits on late-term abortions or requirements to contact the family, those would be harder to do after a constitutional amendment.
“By putting it in the Constitution you are more assured that we would never enact any restrictions for instance on the third trimester of a pregnancy or to involve parents, anything like that,” Donahue said.
Currently, Roe v. Wade allows for protections in both the second and especially the third trimesters, and says the state has an interest in the life developing in the womb.
“That’s where it’s very misleading to the public because it goes way beyond Roe v. Wade. … It’s implying that we’re just adopting what’s current constitutional law in the country and it’s just not true. People generally don’t support abortion on demand up to 9 months. There’s virtually no country in the world that takes that position, but that’s what this would do,” Donahue said.
She also said the proposal has implications for health care workers such as doctors or nurses who do not want to participate in abortion.
“I think it’s clear that when it says it’s a superseding right, that means a person who did not want to participate in an abortion as a nurse or a doctor, could be told that you are interfering with a constitutional right, you can’t refuse,” she said.