Hundreds pack hearing on Vermont House bill on abortion rights

Local News

Hundreds of people crowded in to the Vermont State House on Wednesday for a public hearing on a bill that would protect a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

While a limited number of people were able to testify, those who weren’t able to get inside the House chambers crowded the hallways, many of them staying until the end of the hearing.

One of the first speakers, Pamela Villemere, urged legislators to reconsider their support of the bill.

“There are 44,000 survivors of abortion living the U.S. today, and their lives matter,” Villemere said. “I implore our legislators representing Vermont to make a responsible decision… one that values human life.”

The bill has support from at least 90 representatives, and Gov. Phil Scott, who said he supports a woman’s right to choose. Scott has urded lawmakers to allow the bill, House 57, to move through the legislature.

Chloe White from ACLU of Vermont said the bill is necessary because a conservative-leaning Supreme Court threatens the future of Roe v. Wade.

“This bill will help to ensure that reproductive freedom is protected in Vermont, no matter what happens at the federal level,” White said. “The legislation ensures that politics remains removed from personal healthcare decisions and leaves medicine to medical professionals and their patients.”

Testimony for and against the bill went back-and-forth, and people in the gallery were reminded several times not to cheer, clap or boo during the hearing. Passions were high on both sides of the debate.

“The fact of the matter is I believe that life begins at conception,” said Scott Carlson, who watched testimony from the lobby outside the house chamber. “Beyond that, I’ve worked with women as a pastor who have had symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome. This is not good for a woman.”

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a similar piece of legislation. Like Vermont’s bill, it codifies abortion protections under the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling into state law, keeping abortions legal and protecting women and doctors from government interference. 

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