Vermont bill would bar any government restrictions on abortion

Pregnant Credit Unsplash CNA Unsplash.

A bill was introduced in the Vermont House of Representatives Tuesday that would prohibit public entities from interfering with or restricting women's access to abortion.

The Freedom of Choice Act, H.57, was introduced Jan. 22 by Reps. Ann Pugh and Maxine Grad. It has 91 co-sponsors in the 150-member body, and was referred to the Committee on Human Services.

The bill is meant to "safeguard the right to abortion" by ensuring it is not "denied, restricted, or infringed."

It asserts that "every individual" has a fundamental right to choose or refuse contraception or sterilization, that "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", and that "a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus shall not have independent rights under Vermont law."

In addition to all branches of the state government, the bill would also apply to municipal governments in Vermont.

The bill was introduced the same day that New York passed its Reproductive Health Act; the anniversary of the 1973 US Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.

Left-leaning states have moved to enact stronger abortion rights since October's appointment of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice to replace the retiring justice Anthony Kennedy.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that "in the face of a federal government intent on rolling back Roe v. Wade and women's reproductive rights, I promised that we would enact this critical legislation within the first 30 days of the new session - and we got it done," shortly after signing the legislation.

New York's law codified the finding of Roe v. Wade, meaning that abortion would remain legal in New York even if the case were to be overturned by the Supreme Court.

While the New York law officially limits abortion to the first 24 weeks gestation, abortion is permitted at a later gestational age for reasons related to the wellbeing of the mother. Additionally, the bill removes act of abortion from the criminal code, and instead places it in the public-health code, and strips most safeguards and regulations on the procedure. Non-doctors will now be permitted to perform abortions.

The New York State Catholic Conference commented that "Our beloved state has become a more dangerous one for women and their unborn babies."

In July 2018, Massachusetts passed a law that would ensure abortion remains legal in the state should the Supreme Court ever overturn Roe v. Wade.

New Mexico's legislature is also considering an abortion rights law. The bill would repeal the state's laws criminalizing abortion, which date to the 1960s but have not been enforced since 1973.

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