BENNINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Friday, eliminating the federal constitutional right to abortion, drew sharp comments from Vermont leaders and a renewed call for passage of Proposition 5, which would guarantee reproductive rights in the state Constitution.
“State legislatures cannot write their way through the myriad of circumstances that can arise for women in pregnancy," said U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy. "The court, today, says that those state legislatures know best. No, not the 163 million women in this country. Not a woman about her own body. Government knows best.”
"The overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court is the biggest attack on women’s rights in a generation and will rob women of their right to chart their own futures, for themselves and for their families," said U.S. Rep. Peter Welch. "This decision is a disgrace."
“It is a dark day for our country, but this is far from over. We will not compromise on our bodies, our dignity or our freedom," said Lucy Leriche, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund. "Vermonters should know that Planned Parenthood will always fight for you, and we will not back down.”
Vermont Right to Life, a pro-life organization, applauded Friday's decision, adding, “Constitutional experts on both sides of the debate over abortion have long criticized the Roe decision as having created a right that did not exist and for broadly overreaching their jurisdiction. Those errors have been corrected today.”
St. Michael's Church in Brattleboro deferred to a message from Bishop Christopher J. Coyne to the Catholic community of the Diocese of Burlington.
"I believe it is helpful for us as Catholics to ponder the mystery of Christ’s love in light of today’s ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturns Roe vs. Wade, and to use that image as a means of forming our response amongst ourselves and in the greater community," Coyne said. "While we can rightly applaud the decision of the court, we must also be vigilant to avoid any language that will further inflame the present public response."
He also noted that, "Here in Vermont, today’s ruling has no effect on the present legal right to abortion. Our state already has the most liberal of laws allowing for abortion on demand right up to the moment of birth."
Additionally, Coyne informed his flock about the coming of Proposition 5 to the state ballot in November.
The state's Vermont's Freedom of Choice Act, enacted in 2019, ensures that all Vermont citizens have a protected right to abortion and other reproductive health care. The act recognizes a fundamental right to abortion and prevents all public entities, including government agencies and law enforcement, from interfering with abortion access.
“Despite the U.S. Supreme Court decision ..., access to safe and legal abortion remains protected in Vermont and many states across the country. Abortion care is health care," said Vermont’s acting Attorney General Joshua Diamond, shortly after the Supreme Court's decision was publicly released.
The Reproductive Liberty Amendment, known as Prop. 5, could also play a role in protecting abortion access in the state. Vermonters will have the opportunity to vote on the amendment to the Vermont Constitution in November, during the primary election.
“Protecting personal reproductive liberty in the Vermont Constitution will preserve this right in our state, no matter what happens in Washington, D.C.”, according to Vermont for Reproductive Liberty Campaign, led by Planned Parenthood Vermont. The organization's website reprolibertyvt.org states that if the amendment passes, Vermont will be the first state in the nation to “explicitly protect reproductive rights in its constitution.”
The Planned Parenthood in Bennington closed as of June 12. Leriche said Friday she hopes Bennington Planned Parenthood patients will “stay with us through our telehealth services.”
Planned Parenthood offers medication-assisted abortion through telehealth services, so Bennington-area residents will still have access to abortion even if they can’t commute to a brick and mortar clinic.
Free transportation to clinics might also be in the works.
“I have spoken with community activists who are very interested in doing something like that,” said Leriche. “And I will add that Medicaid provides rides with some notice.”