MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont Senate on Friday passed a bill that aims to protect health care workers from disciplinary action for providing abortions and gender-affirming health care, and change insurance premium charges related to such care.
The legislation defines reproductive and gender-affirming health care as legally protected "health care activities."
Another bill that passed in the Vermont House last month would provide health care providers with legal protection. It would also ban public agencies from cooperating in interstate investigations seeking to impose civil or criminal liability on patients or providers.
The bills were introduced in response to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in June, amid major changes across states that restrict or take steps to protect access to such care.
“The Dobbs decision last summer upended our national understanding of reproductive autonomy,” said Democratic Sen. Ginny Lyons, the lead sponsor of the bill. “The result has been absolutely turbulent and sometimes terrifying. It’s an upheaval of our social fabric across our country, and Vermont must continue to do everything in our power to protect access to reproductive and gender-affirming care at the state level.”
Seven states have enacted similar so-called abortion shield laws, with three of them covering gender affirming care, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Vermont has formally changed the state's Constitution to include the Reproductive Liberty Amendment, which protects reproductive rights including abortion. Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed the constitutional amendment in December. The Legislature also passed a law in 2019 guaranteeing abortion rights.