Two members of the Office of Legislative Counsel sat in with the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday morning to discuss a bill that would impact abortion and sex change policies, especially as it pertains to the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Committee Chair Sen. Virginia “Ginny” Lyons, D-Chittenden, is the lead sponsor of S.37, an act relating to access to legally protected activity and regulation of health care providers.
“This is commonly known as the reproductive shield or protection law,” Lyons said. “The bill comes as a result of all of the national activity and state activity around Roe v. Wade and protections for health care givers who might be, or patients coming from out of state to receive services in Vermont and protecting providers in the state as they carry out their work, and in particular with regards to abortion services and other protected healthcare services.”
Lyons said S.37 is “a priority bill” and noted that the companion bill currently in the House Judiciary Committee focuses more on litigation, while this bill aims at regulations for health care providers.
Two members of the Vermont Office of Legislative Counsel to speak at the meeting were Amerin Aborjaily and Jennifer Carbee, director and chief counsel.
Multiple initiatives in S.37
Aborjaily outlined 10 objectives that the bill seeks to accomplish. The first is to add formal definitions into state law concerning the terms “gender-affirming healthcare services,” “legally protected healthcare activity” and “reproductive healthcare services.”
“This is an important one because this is a lot of the basis for the provisions you are going to see,” Aborjaily said.
She also said “legally protected healthcare activity” will always include both abortion and gender-affirming services.
The second is to prohibit any medical malpractice insurers from adjusting a care provider’s “risk classification or premium charges in certain circumstances.”
The third is to require that health insurance plans must cover “gender-affirming health care services and abortion-related services.”
Opens Vermont to litigation?
Sen. Terry Williams, R-Rutland, posed questions on the potential for conflicts with other states’ laws regarding abortion and gender services. He asked what happens if a health insurance company from out of state sues Vermont if they are told they can’t adjust premiums or other costs associated with performing abortions or gender-affirming services.
Carbee acknowledged that litigation against Vermont health care providers by other states could occur, but that this bill aims to protect against such legal actions.
“Even though there might be potential for increased litigation based on other states’ laws, what this bill and what the other bill are trying to do is create as much protection as possible for Vermont providers,” she said.
Other provisions in S.37 aim to prohibit any health care provider from having to face disciplinary action “for providing or assisting in the provision of legally protected health care activity”; create an “unfair and deceptive act” pertaining to pregnancy centers; require the Health Department to report on current access to abortion, birthing services and gender-affirming services; address emergency contraceptives; and “limit circumstances under which covered entities may disclose information regarding legally protected healthcare activity.”
The committee meeting can be viewed online here.