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Proposed constitutional amendment protecting 'reproductive liberty' heads to Vt. voters

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Following approval by the Vermont House of Representatives on Tuesday, Vermonters will vote in November on a constitutional amendment protecting "personal reproductive liberty."

A proposed constitutional amendment protecting the "personal reproductive liberty" of all Vermonters was approved by the Vermont House on Tuesday.

The measure, known as Proposition 5, will now be decided by voters in a statewide referendum in November.

The vote on the proposed amendment was 107 to 41.

Vermont lawmakers have been working on the measure since 2019, the same year the Legislature passed a law preserving the right to abortion.

Proposition 5 would add the following text to the Vermont Constitution:

"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."

Human Services Committee chairperson Ann Pugh, a representative from South Burlington, said the amendment is necessary because the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

"With this reproductive amendment, we have the opportunity to enshrine these rights in the Vermont Constitution," Pugh said.

Opponents of the proposed amendment said they couldn't support it because it "favored the rights of women over those of the unborn."

More from NPR: Roe v. Wade's future is in doubt after historic arguments at Supreme Court

Lucy Leriche with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England applauded lawmakers Tuesday in a written statement:

"The Reproductive Liberty Amendment is important because it would protect every Vermonter’s right to make their own reproductive decisions, like whether and when to become a parent, use temporary or permanent birth control, or seek abortion care. It is critical that we ensure that the rights we rely on today won’t change tomorrow."

Students for Life Action, which describes itself as "the nation’s largest pro-life youth organization," condemned Proposition 5 in a press release.

"The expansion of abortion violence will not end well for anyone involved, and we strongly urge the residents and elected leaders of these dangerous states to make themselves heard in defense of innocent life," wrote the organization's president, Kristan Hawkins.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, more than a dozen states currently protect abortion access through laws and/or state constitutions.

About 20 other states have enacted measures that would severely restrict or ban abortion access if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or tweet us @vprnet.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
Elodie is a reporter and producer for Vermont Public. She previously worked as a multimedia journalist at the Concord Monitor, the St. Albans Messenger and the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, and she's freelanced for The Atlantic, the Christian Science Monitor, the Berkshire Eagle and the Bennington Banner. In 2019, she earned her MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Southern New Hampshire University.
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