After the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision to overturn Roe v. Wade this past June, some states’ legislatures are gunning to ensure legal protections for those performing and seeking abortions, including Vermont.
Both the House, H.89, and the Senate, S.37, are taking on abortion omnibus bills that would provide those protections, as well as gender-affirming care. The former falls under Article 22, the constitutional amendment passed in November outlawing.
“It is a new world,” Senator Virginia Lyons, D-Williston.
Experts say interjurisdictional battles among both pro and anti-abortion states are set to ensue.
“They are not going to be satisfied they ended abortion in their borders, they’re going to want to end abortion everywhere,” says David Cohen, a professor of law at Drexel University.
Cohen says when those seeking abortions inevitably travel to Vermont or neighboring pro-abortion states like Massachusetts and New York to receive care, they could be subject to legal action in their home states when they return.
The proposed abortion ‘shield’ bills are aiming to ensure healthcare providers performing the act receive protections within state lines. Providers and patients would be discluded from investigations and prosecutions by states that have criminalized certain reproductive health care procedures.
“When they go back to their states, we want to make sure our providers are not held accountable,” said Lyons.
Planned Parenthood of New England’s Vice President of Public Policy Lucy Leriche says the shield bill’s protections wouldn’t stretch as far for patients.
“There are minimal protections for patients, around privacy, forwarding mail and data protection…unfortunately though, the patients bare most of the risk,” Leriche said.
The senate bill would also outlaw medical insurance companies from raising providers’ rates if they offer reproductive health care in the state and force the state’s pregnancy resource centers to adhere to Vermont’s consumer protection laws. Lawmakers and lobbyists say their purpose is misleading for young women.
“We call them fake clinics because that’s what they are, and they are halfway through their appointment before they go ‘oh, this isn’t what i thought at all,’” Leriche said.
However, Vermont Right to Life’s Executive Director Mary Hahn Beerworth said the resource centers provide essential care.
“Daycare to finish your college education, special housing so you can raise your child and graduate, that’s choice…and that’s the kind of thing the pregnancy resource centers do offer,” she said.
She also argued that the basis for the bills is largely flawed.
“You have HIPPA laws, why would anyone know you came here to have an abortion…and we have this whole long lengthy bill, for what?” she said.