Pro-choice advocates and some elected officials in Vermont are concerned after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a Texas law that essentially bans abortion.
The Texas law comes nearly 50 years after the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision that granted women the constitutional right to the procedure.
It also starkly contrasts the work being done in Vermont to protect reproductive rights. Since 2019, lawmakers have been determined to amend the state constitution to include more protections for Vermont women seeking abortion services.
“We have never seen anything this extreme and this radical from abortion opponents before,” said Lucy Leriche, Vermont’s spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
Leriche says the Texas law bans abortion after six weeks gestation, making the procedure legal for just a small percentage of women who learn they are pregnant early enough.
“So to put in perspective, you would have to first realize that you might be pregnant, get a pregnancy test, make an appointment for an abortion, and in Texas, there’s a law that requires an ultra sound. And then, you have a 24-hour waiting period. And hope that that can all happen before six weeks,” said Leriche.
The law also grants enforcement authority to private citizens, who can sue abortion providers or anyone involved in facilitating the procedure and receive a reward of up to $10,000.
The law took effect late Wednesday after the Supreme Court denied a request for emergency relief from pro-choice groups.
Richard Sala, a constitutional law professor, said: “Basically, what the Surpreme Court said here is there are some novel issues. We can’t enjoin the law, we can only enjoin individuals. So you had 5 members of the court say we’re not going to grant this emergency relief.”
In a joint statement, Vermont Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski and Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint said the Texas abortion ban “is not about a difference of opinion in health care policy, it’s about controlling certain populations and their ability to make decisions that impact their lives.”
In January, Vermont House plans to take it up a measure passed by the Senate in 2020 that would guarantee reproductive rights, including the right to abortion, to Vermonters.
If it passes the House, voters would need to approve the measure in a 2022 referendum. Only then would Vermont become the first state in the county to proactively protect the right to abortion in its state constitution.
“This is really important because we can see at the national level that this right is severely threatened,” said Leriche.