MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont lawmakers are taking steps to ensure that abortion is a right for women in the state in the event the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
The House legislation, sponsored by about 90 of the 150 representatives, states 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." The measure would take effect immediately if passed.
"This bill does nothing more than put in statute what is currently allowed in the state of Vermont," said Democratic Rep. Ann Pugh, a sponsor.
The Vermont Senate also plans to propose an amendment to the state constitution that would protect abortion rights. Senate leaders are expected to introduce an amendment soon.
"We're looking at something that would ensure reproductive liberty," said Democratic Sen. Virginia Lyons. A constitutional amendment would take several years to pass.
A 1971 Vermont Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in the state before Roe, said Mary Beerworth, executive director of the Vermont Right to Life Committee.
For that reason, she said she doesn't see the purpose of what the Legislature is doing.
"It's a pretty odd focus for a legislature that already has a state where abortion is legal without restriction or regulation through all nine months of pregnancy," Beerworth said.
She said the bill's language is "so blanket" that it doesn't allow for parental notification.
She thinks parents should be notified if their child is under 18 and having an abortion. She said that under the proposed legislation, that requirement could not be added in the future.
After first supporting the bill, Republican Rep. Patrick Seymour changed his mind. He told the Caledonian Record that the short bill's language is "very open to interpretation."
The debate nationally has caused a lot of attention and confusion in Vermont, said Lucy Leriche, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
During and since the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, the organization has been hearing from Vermonters who are uncertain and confused about whether their right to have an abortion would be taken away.
"We think it's really important that the Vermont Legislature takes a stand and lets Vermonters know that their rights are not going to be infringed upon regardless of what happens at the U.S. Supreme Court level or in Congress," she said.