Vermont’s legislature has garnered national attention for a bill even more radical than New York’s recently passed Reproductive Health Act. H.57 would enshrine legal protection for any and all types of abortion at any stage of pregnancy, for any reason or no reason at all. On Thursday it was passed by the Vermont House with complete Democratic support and the support of four Republicans: Scott Beck, Heidi Scheuermann, Harvey Smith, and Francis McFaun.
Vermont currently has no laws restricting abortion (beyond the federal ban on partial birth abortion) or ensuring the safety of the mother during the procedure. The sole requirement seems to be of reporting abortions to the Department of Health. H.57 does not introduce any regulations that would further ensure the “safety” of abortion for the mother, instead expressly prohibiting the government from taking any actions that “interfere with or restrict” the ability of a licensed individual to perform an abortion. You can read the entire bill here.
Instead, H.57’s proponents only goal is to ensure that the status quo of completely unregulated abortion be preserved if the Supreme Court overturns Roe V. Wade and its associated rulings. Supporters of H.57 would have us believe this bill is just reaffirming the legality of abortion practice in Vermont, and as such folks shouldn’t get too worked up about it. But its passage, like the RHA in New York, reveals three things of which all observers, but particularly pro-lifers, should take note.
1. This Is a Response to Conservative Judicial Wins
First, the left has been aggravated by pro-lifers’ aggressive push to put pro-life justices on the Supreme Court. As Zachary Zupan, the campaign manager for Lawrence Zupan, the 2018 Republican Senate candidate in Vermont, told me, “I would take this as a sign that the left is panicking because they see that the pro-life movement is working. They are trying to pass extreme legislation in reaction to that.”
The confirmations of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have the pro-abortion lobby on edge that some states may be able to shut down abortion facilities in pro-life states in the not-too-distant future. Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers want to ensure that the markets in abortion-friendly states see as little regulation as possible.
“Planned Parenthood is the most well-represented constituency in the legislature,” said Zupan, noting their campaign funding and lobbying far outweighs that of the National Rifle Association. “The priority seems to be ensuring as little accountability and legal restrictions for planned parenthood and other abortion providers as possible,” which, he says, “opens the door for horrific kinds of exploitations.”
2. The Abortion Lobby Is Not Interested In Health Or Safety
Planned Parenthood wasn’t interested in adding safety regulations for women who visit their facilities or oversight to ensure there is no coercion or deceit involved in the decision to abort. Amendments as anodyne as requiring an abortion facility license from the state, requiring a physician to oversee an abortion facility, or for registered nurses to oversee its nursing services were shot down. Planned Parenthood wanted the law to be as permissive as possible, and they are willing to hold votes on H.57 over the heads of every single member of the Vermont legislature.
State Rep. Jim Harrison forwarded me this email from Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund, which all state legislators received shortly before the vote:
“I came here today hoping H.57 would get amended and I could support the legislation in the end,” Harrison said at the end of the first day of debate. “I came looking for compromise that would maintain a women’s right to choose, keep us compliant with Roe v. Wade, but would also recognize the interests of the unborn in their later stages of development.”
“That didn’t happen with the voting down of each and every amendment. Consequently I vote No. I leave with disappointment no doubt shared by many others. H.57 goes too far.”
Harrison defied a branch of one of the most powerful lobbies in the country. Other members of his party bowed the knee and told the emperor his clothes were magnificent. For example, State Rep. Diana Gonzalez’s justification for her yea vote was that, “Protecting the right to this medical procedure is important for the health of Vermonters. Access to reproductive health care, including abortions, is important physical health, emotional health, economic health, and gender equity.”
But. just like the New York law, what H.57 actually does is strip naked the shameful truth that the entitlement to abortion has never been about any of those things. It was never about a woman’s right to “choose what to do with her own body,” or even her ability to use lethal force against an “intruder” in her body. As Zupan noted, “If this was about bodily autonomy there’d be some concern about viable babies.” Yet there is zero distinction under Vermont law between a 6-week post-conception baby and a 40-week post-conception baby.
Put another way, radical bills like H.57 and its companion introduced in the VT Senate, S.25, are scouring agents. They dissolve the scum of Planned Parenthood propaganda we’ve been for decades to reveal exactly what the so-called right to abortion has always been about: the permission to destroy one’s own biological offspring. Sloganeering about abortion being necessary to women’s health and autonomy, particularly from those who don’t believe in protections for viable babies, is pure obfuscation.
The resistance of Democrats to the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, as well as Virginia Gov. Northam’s now-infamous comments about would-be aborted babies born alive, is further evidence that “the party of science” wants to guarantee women the right to kill their own children simply because they are unwanted, not that they want to guarantee their access to “health care.”
3. Overturning Roe v. Wade Won’t End Abortion
The bill also surfaces one other inconvenient truth: Overturning Roe v. Wade and its associated rulings won’t do a thing to curb the death-loving tendencies of leftists in states such as Vermont, New York, Oregon, California, or Colorado. All it will do is return the regulation of abortion back to the states.
For decades, the pro-life movement’s fervent and almost singular national policy desire has been to have the 1973 ruling overturned. Fear of this has been stoked by misinformation from abortion defenders to such a point that as of last year almost a third of Americans, and 36 percent of Democrats, believed overturning Roe would make abortion illegal across the country.
To make abortion ‘unthinkable and unavailable in our lifetime’ is a noble goal, but it is much farther off than many of us might have imagined just a month or two ago.
It’s almost as if pro-lifers themselves have bought into these falsely exaggerated consequences of scrapping the Roe decision. The reality is that overturning Roe will mean a rebirth of abortion tourism from abortion-restrictive states to abortion-permissive states, a rise in DIY abortion and black market sale of abortifacients, and a doubling-down on efforts to “find” a right to abortion within state constitutions, as Sarah St. Onge astutely pointed out in these pages.
On the one hand, it will mean that abortion advocates can no longer hide behind Roe in their quest to define all preborn humans as disposable non-persons. They can no longer say, “We have to have this law because Roe requires it.” “It’s the law of the land,” will then no longer be a defense. The battle lines will be more clearly drawn along moral contours, at least when it comes to the national conversation.
On the other hand, laws that surrender a state’s right under Roe to regulate abortion post-viability are already in place, and the left is constantly pushing even less regulation and fewer restrictions on abortion—up to and including leaving infants to die after botched abortions.
Overturning Roe and its associated rulings will be like summiting a molehill at the foot of a mountain. Blue states will not give up their power to facilitate innocent deaths so easily, as H.57 so brazenly shows. To make abortion “unthinkable and unavailable in our lifetime” is a noble goal, but it is much farther off than many of us might have imagined just a month or two ago.
Still, Zupan thinks Vermont legislators “went beyond the will of the people” last week. “I hope the leaders of our legislature are happy when they see a lot of their colleagues lose their election next fall,” he said. “I think that’s the only justice they might get in this lifetime.”