This commentary is by Mark Shepard, a former Vermont state senator (2003-2006) in the Bennington District. He owns and operates an engineering business specializing in industrial control and test systems.
Prop 5, Article 22 on Vermonters’ 2022 ballot, reads, “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.”
While proponents claim their amendment is to secure a pregnant woman’s unfettered access to a legal abortion, it is no accident that the amendment does not say anything remotely close to that. Removing the fluff and reversing the phrases uncovers that it does far more to empower the state than women: “So long as the state has no compelling interest otherwise, citizens will have reproductive autonomy.”
The only difference between the two wordings is that Prop 5’s convoluted wording hides the fact that it makes the state the ultimate authority over Vermonter’s reproductive choices. Don’t be fooled: a right that the state can take away is not a right. Compare Prop 5 to the clarity in the Bill of Rights.
Indeed, the language of the amendment opens the door to dehumanizing practices, such as forced sterilizations, which were very popular in 20th century America.
As a Vermont State senator I sat around committee tables for four years with many of the proponents and learned their goals and priorities directly from them. The worldview they embrace opposes human impact above all. Hence, they advocate for policies that greatly restrict human activity, including massively reducing the human population itself.
They are determined to eliminate fossil fuels, nuclear and other forms of energy that are responsible for our world being so livable, and they show no concern whatsoever about there being no remotely comparable replacement for the foreseeable future. The result would quickly starve half the world’s population and leave most of the rest to a subsistence existence, with its naturally unhealthy air and water (see “Fossil Future” by Alex Epstein).
To enact ideas like these, which when understood are rejected by all who truly want a better world for people, requires the use of force. And that is why their policies always shift power away from the citizen and toward the state, and Prop 5 is no exception.
Their commitment to an all-powerful state model was etched into my mind in 2006 when my Democrat colleagues tried to sneak through a resolution praising Venezuelan Socialist President Hugo Chavez — the man most responsible for turning the wealthiest nation in South America into a hell hole, with reports of over 100,000 Venezuelans undergoing a violent death. Thankfully, I noticed it amidst a group of friendly resolutions, which are always voted on as a group, and I was able to steer it to an embarrassing end.
Could there be a compelling state interest to not allow women on Medicaid to have children? What about people with genetic health issues? Was Vermont’s assisted suicide law about the right to die, or was it a means for the state to encourage people with poorer health, and hence often a burden to the state, to end their life? These are not light statements, but they do align well with the radical anti-human worldview that the core Prop 5 proponents openly embrace, as well as explain the vague wording of Prop 5. Prop 5 is not about securing the rights of any citizen. It is about giving your rights to the state. Take it for what it says, not for what the proponents say it says.
It should be unimaginable that the state, which first banned slavery in its constitution, is now considering a dehumanizing idea like Prop 5. If you think Americans are above such barbaric acts, look up the history of eugenics in America throughout the prior century. While the legislative process should keep horrific ideas off the ballot, the current Legislature failed its duty. It is up to Vermonters to vote this down and rescue Vermont from regressing back a century. And while at it, clean the mindset that created Prop 5 out of your legislature.