Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican who favors some restrictions on abortion access, came out in support of a bill introduced Wednesday to protect abortion rights in the state.
The bill, which would protect abortion rights should conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court strike down Roe v. Wade, was introduced on the house floor by Reps. Ann Pugh (D-South Burlington) and Maxine Grad (D-Moretown), and it has overwhelming support in the Democratic-majority house and state senate. Wednesday marked the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Advocates are relieved that Vermonters will be ensured access to abortion services even if Roe is overturned by the Supreme Court.
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“It is pretty wonderful we have a Republican governor whose thinking about abortion rights has been evolving in a really progressive way, in a way we support and celebrate. And we are very pleased that he has come out publicly saying he supports [the pro-choice bill],” Lucy Leriche, a vice president of public policy at Planned Parenthood Northern New England, told Rewire.News.
Abortion rights became a campaign issue for Scott when he ran for governor in 2016. He claimed he was pro-choice but said he would consider supporting bills that required parental notification and restricted later abortion care. That put him in the crosshairs of Planned Parenthoods affiliated PAC, which ran ads campaigning against him in the 2016 race.
Activists said abortion is unlikely to ever be banned in Vermont, but given the conservative makeup of the Supreme Court and the Trump administration’s assault on reproductive rights, a state law codifying abortion protections is the best way to make sure Vermonters will continue to have access to abortion care.
Even in the largely liberal New England state, the University of Vermont Medical Center only reversed a long-standing policy severely limiting when it would provide abortions last year. If it seems strange that Vermont does not already have a law protecting reproductive rights on the books, Leriche said they haven’t needed state protections since Roe was passed.
“It’s very fortunate for us that we have not up to this point felt a need to put any abortion statutes on the books because we have enjoyed full, unrestricted access to abortion care here,” she said. “There’s nothing on the books neither permitting nor prohibiting any kind of abortion care, which means that the U.S. Supreme Court decision is the only edict we have to follow.”
Vermont would become the latest state to codify Roe protections into state law with the threat of Supreme Court conservatives striking a blow against the landmark ruling.
“When an individual decides to end their pregnancy, they should be able to get safe, timely, affordable care in their community without anyone shaming, threatening or trying to impose their own beliefs,” Pugh, the bill’s co-sponsor, said in an email. “It is an issue of access to care and of economics. When individuals are able to control their reproductive decisions, they are able to make their own decisions about their participation in the workforce, in their communities and Vermont is stronger for it.”