By Guy Page
Since last Wednesday night, when 700 opponents of H.57, the unrestricted abortion bill, attended the House Human Services/Judiciary committees’ public hearing at the Vermont Statehouse, both committees have addressed the bill. Human Services approved it Thursday with minor changes and Judiciary is taking testimony today and tomorrow.
H.57 approved by Human Services Committee last week – The changes approved by Human Services Thursday may seem significant on the surface, but in fact do not change the bill’s position of unrestricted abortion through pregnancy.
Here’s the blow-by-blow of how Human Services voted. Chair Ann Pugh asked ranking Republican member Topper McFaun to make a motion for committee action on H.57. McFaun recalled Friday afternoon, “I said, ‘yes, I’ll make a motion. I move that we kill this bill.’” The motion earned a quick look of surprise from Chair Pugh and some other lawmakers, but was defeated 3-7.
Then a motion was made to remove this unpopular clause: “A fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus shall not have independent rights under Vermont law.” The committee’s unrestricted abortion rights supporters only voted ‘yes’ after they were assured that removing this phrase would not weaken Vermont protection for unrestricted abortion. Elsewhere H.57 states without exception or qualification, “Every individual who becomes pregnant has the fundamental right to choose to carry a pregnancy to term, give birth to a child, or to have an abortion.” The motion passed.
Then the committee voted to recognize that partial birth abortion is forbidden by federal law. Again, this amendment does not change Vermont’s complete legalization of unrestricted, late-term abortions. The final vote was 8-3. Yes: Rep. Ann Pugh, Chair, Rep. Sandy Haas, Vice Chair, Rep. Jessica Brumsted, Rep. Logan Nicoll, Rep. Daniel Noyes, Rep. Kelly Pajala, Rep. Marybeth Redmond, and Rep. Theresa Wood, Clerk. No: Rep. Francis McFaun, Ranking Member, Rep. James Gregoire, and Rep. Carl Rosenquist.
Human Services postscript: Friday afternoon, Chair Pugh approached Headliners and a Vermont Right to Life staffer in the Statehouse cafeteria to make clear that, contrary to some social media reports, she did not laugh after the bill was approved. She did say that the entire committee had a tension-relieving chuckle near the end of the H.57 discussion, but that it was not laughter as a result of the decision. Headliners then asked the available chairwoman: did Planned Parenthood help write the bill? Many people helped write the bill, she replied. She added that she used another state law as a template for the bill, but couldn’t recall which state.
H.57 discussed in Judiciary Committee this week – As seen on this weekly schedule for every House Committee, one of two new features of Statehouse Headliners and the Vermont Daily Chronicle, House Judiciary took up H.57 this afternoon and is scheduled to hold more discussion and “a possible vote” tomorrow morning and afternoon. However, Judiciary vice-chair Tom Burditt (Rutland) said this morning there would be no vote tomorrow. At this moment it is unclear who will testify in Judiciary, either for or against the bill.
Judiciary members are: Rep. Maxine Grad, Chair, Rep. Thomas Burditt, Vice Chair, Rep. Martin LaLonde, Ranking Member, Rep. Kevin “Coach” Christie, Rep. Selene Colburn, Rep. Kenneth Goslant, Rep. Nader Hashim, Rep. Kimberly Jessup, Clerk, Rep. William Notte, Rep. Barbara Rachelson, Rep. Patrick Seymour.
Pro- H.57 group sows confusion over ‘late term’ abortions – the pro-H.57 Vermont Medical Society published a press release last week saying “No abortion providers in Vermont perform elective abortions in the third trimester.” This statement seems to have had a confusing ripple effect. At least one letter writer was told by his local newspaper editor that his letter about unrestricted abortion was inaccurate and would not be printed because “elective late-term abortions aren’t practiced in Vermont.”
Consider these relevant facts:
- Late-term doesn’t just refer to just third-trimester. The fetus is viable about halfway through the second trimester. The VMS is silent on second trimester abortions. Neither should late-term be considered synonymous with partial-birth abortion, which is merely one of many late-term procedures.
- Third-trimester abortions do happen in Vermont. UVM Medical Center abortionist Dr. Lauren Macafee said so in Human Services two weeks ago. How do Vermonters know none of these procedures (est. 15-20/year after 21 weeks) were ‘elective’? And just what does ‘elective’ really mean to an abortion provider? Certainly the term is not defined, nor the practice regulated, by state law.
- Nothing in H.57 prohibits the practice of late-term abortions. Even if they are not currently practiced, they could be in the future (for many reasons) unless our Legislature acts.
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.