This commentary is by Molly and Richard Jesse, of Essex.
“Systemic racism” refers to all of the policies and practices entrenched in established institutions that harm certain racial groups and help others. One example is the current 18:1 disparity between federal penalties for crack cocaine and powder cocaine, imposing the same penalties for the possession of an amount of crack cocaine as for 18 times the same amount of powder cocaine. Research shows this disparity affects crack users who are more likely to be Black, low-income and less educated .
Now consider Article 22 (aka Proposal 5), a proposed amendment to the Vermont Constitution that will permit abortions – taking the life of an unborn child, for any reason, through all nine months of pregnancy – up to and including the day of birth. Article 22 will be on the 2022 General Election ballot in November for an up or down vote by Vermonters. If Article 22 passes, Vermonters will have no right to choose to protect the life of the unborn. Vermont will then be the first state in the country to explicitly deny unborn children the right to life in its constitution.
In a recent article, James Studnicki and co-authors examine the pervasive racial disparity entrenched in abortion . The article begins:
“While induced abortion remains a contentious political issue, there is no credible scientific doubt that a unique human life begins at conception and, therefore, ends with an abortion. Even the Obama administration and the abortion-friendly Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have acknowledged ‘the critical importance of a child’s first 1,000 days after conception in determining a healthy and productive life trajectory…to ensure that all children…have an equal opportunity to survive and thrive.’
Yet, the evidence is clear that for many decades Black children in the United States have not had, and do not have today, an equal opportunity to survive until birth.”
Later in their article the authors report that “…Black women have been experiencing abortions at a rate nearly 4 times that of White women for more than 30 years. It is very likely that the disparity existed even before there was any reporting [of abortion data].” For Vermont in 2019, Black women experienced abortions at a rate 4.4 times that of White women.
What is the conclusion from this? “Given [the] high incidence and racially skewed distribution [of induced abortion], abortion is unquestionably the most demographically consequential occurrence for the [Black] community. Its [harmful] impact on the size and racial composition of the nation [including Vermont with its small Minority population] is undeniable.” In policy and practice then, abortion is systemically racist.
Vermonters should stand against “enshrining” systemic racism in the Vermont Constitution and vote “no” in November to adding Article 22.
 J. J. Palamar et al., “Powder Cocaine and Crack Use in the United States: An Examination of Risk for Arrest and Socioeconomic Disparities in Use,” Drug and Alcohol Dependence , Volume 149, 2015, 108-116. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376871615000496 (accessed 2/27/2022).
 J. Studnicki et al., “Perceiving and Addressing the Pervasive Racial Disparity in Abortion,” Health Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology, Volume 7, 2020. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7436774/#!po=1.06383 (accessed 2/27/2022).