By Guy Page
H.57, titled “an act relating to preserving the right to abortion,” has been released for introduction into the Vermont House. It will be introduced on the House floor Tuesday, January 22, lead co-sponsor Rep. Ann Pugh (D-S. Burlington), chair of the House Human Services Committee, said Friday.
After introduction, all House bills are sent to a committee for review. Friday afternoon at the Vermont State House, Chair Pugh introduced me to Planned Parenthood public policy official Lucy Leriche and then told both of us that her committee will hear testimony on H.57 next Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, and Wednesday morning of the following week. She hopes to pass the bill out of committee to the House floor by sometime that week, she said. Both opponents and supporters of legal abortion will be given opportunity to testify in her committee, Pugh said.
Details of H. 57 were not available on the Legislative website as of today at 4:30 pm. Senate bill, S.25, “an act relating to the right to have an abortion,” says the bill is necessary due to concerns that the “recent shift in composition” on U.S. Supreme Court will invalidate the 1973 Roe V. Wade decision legalizing abortion. S.25 claims that “establishing a right to abortion advances the public policy goals of enhancing the health of all Vermont citizens, including women of all ages.”
In particular that last phrase – “including women of all ages” – has some legislators worried. They say S-25, introduced by Sen. Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden), could forever prohibit parents from having any legal right to permit, or even know about, their child having an abortion, even if the child is only 12 or 13 years old. This is perceived as a double standard, at the least. As one lawmaker noted this week, many legislators – including some H.57 sponsors listed below – say gun ownership and smoking must be delayed until age 21 because young people’s brains and decision-making abilities are still developing. Yet they apparently would not limit young teens’ legal authority to have an abortion, a potentially life-threatening surgical procedure.
Language in the Senate bill appears to provide:
1. A no-exceptions, no-restrictions legal right to abortion. “The right of an individual to terminate the individual’s pregnancy shall not be impeded or restricted.”
Critics of S-25 and the House bill will be asking whether the legislation has any bearing on the practice of partial birth abortion, in which full-term, viable babies are aborted. On Saturday, Jan. 26 the Vermont Right to Life Committee will gather at the Vermont State House to hear the producer of the “Gosnell,” a film about the murder convictions of a Philadelphia abortion doctor who performed partial-birth abortions. The film will be screened for the general public (tickets $10) at about 2:30 pm Jan. 26 at the Capital Theater on State Street in Montpelier. For more information see the Vermont Right to Life website.
2. Special malpractice protection for abortion providers. “A health care provider performing or assisting with a legal abortion procedure shall not be subject to any civil, criminal, or administrative liability or penalty.” Planned Parenthood has historically performed most of the abortions in Vermont. However, almost two years ago the UVM Medical Center announced it, too, would provide elective abortions.
3. Protection against any counter-legislation, including parental notification/permission. “Any law, regulation, or ordinance that purports to impede or restrict the right of an individual to terminate her pregnancy in violation of subsection (a) 14 of this section shall be void.”
Whether H.57, like S.25, grants special immunity for abortion providers will become apparent when language of the bill is made public Monday or Tuesday. Although Senate leaders have said they will introduce legislation to enshrine the legal right to abortion in the Vermont State Constitution, no such bill has yet been introduced.
The other lead co-sponsor of H.57 is Rep. Maxine Grad, chair of House Judiciary Committee. Other sponsors are: Janet Ancel, Peter Anthony, John Bartholomew, Scott Beck, Thomas Bock, Timothy Briglin, Nelson Brownell, Jessica Brumsted, Mollie Burke, R. Scott Campbell, James Carroll, Seth Chase, Robin Chesnut-Tangerman, Annmarie Christensen, Kevin Christie, Brian Cina, Sara Coffey, Selene Colburn, Peter Conlon, Charles “Chip” Conquest, Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, Mari Cordes, Carl Demrow, Katherine “Kari” Dolan, Johannah Donovan, David Durfee, Caleb Elder, Alice Emmons, John Gannon, Marcia Gardner, Dylan Giambatista, Diana Gonzalez, Sandy Haas, Nader Hashim, Matthew Hill, Mary Hooper, Philip Hooper, Robert Hooper, Lori Houghton, Mary Howard, Kathleen James, Stephanie Jerome, Kimberly Jessup, Benjamin Jickling, Mitzi Johnson, John Killacky, Warren Kitzmiller, Emilie Kornheiser, Jill Krowinski, Martin LaLonde, Diane Lanpher, William Lippert, Emily Long, Terence Macaig, James Masland, Michael McCarthy, Curtis McCormack, James McCullough, Michael Mrowicki, Linda Myers, Logan Nicoll, William Notte, Daniel Noyes, Jean O’Sullivan, Carol Ode, Kelly Pajala, Carolyn Partridge, Avram Patt, Barbara Rachelson, Zachariah Ralph, Robin Scheu, Patrick Seymour, Amy Sheldon, Laura Sibilia, Brian Smith, Trevor Squirrell, Thomas Stevens, Linda Sullivan, Randall Szott, George Till, Tristan Toleno, Catherine Toll, Maida Townsend, Matthew Trieber, Joseph “Chip” Troiano, Tommy Walz, Kathryn Webb, Rebecca White, David Yacovone.
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.