Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Keep choice alive in Vermont

Letters and commentaries attacking Article 22/Prop 5 are usually self-contradictory and disingenuous. On one hand, they argue that the proposed constitutional amendment is unnecessary because Vermont law already guarantees abortion rights. On the other hand, they declare it dangerous to confirm these rights in the Constitution, since that will make it harder to cancel them, should public opinion turn against abortion. 

Opponents rant that a constitutional right to reproductive autonomy will make Vermont a destination for “late-term abortions” or “abortion up until birth,” although legislative and medical authorities state emphatically that there is no such thing as “elective late-term abortion.” Ninety-three percent of abortions are performed in the first trimester. Abortions late in pregnancy are never elective, but always emergencies caused by serious fetal abnormality or danger to a pregnant woman’s health. ( See George Till guest editorial in the Independent here: tinyurl.com/TillOnAbortion and Judy Stern: tinyurl.com/SternOnAbortion.) 

Opponents of Article 22 warn that if everyone has reproductive autonomy, men will be able to require or forbid their partners to terminate pregnancies or use contraceptives. This is a baseless claim. Women will continue to make their own reproductive decisions in consultation with whomever they choose. Another false alarm is that under the amended state Constitution, medical providers will be required to perform abortions and other procedures that violate their consciences. But as a recent commentary by a UVM nurse attests, practitioners aren’t currently forced to participate in these procedures and passage of Article 22 won’t change the situation (tinyurl.com/NurseOnAbortion).

Finally, inclusion of language about “compelling state interests” was deliberately inserted in Article 22 to strengthen, not weaken, all aspects of personal reproductive autonomy (tinyurl.com/ACLUonAbortion).

The Supreme Court’s cynical reversal of Roe v Wade after half a century has created chaos and misery. Reactionary state legislatures have left women desperate for abortion assistance and well-meaning doctors powerless to help, fearing loss of their licenses or even criminal prosecution. 

The arbitrary contention that an embryo or fetus is a “person” with an absolute “right to life” despite the circumstances of its creation, the age of the pregnant woman or the threat to her physical, mental or economic well-being, is already taking a horrible toll. For just a few examples: A woman can die of sepsis because doctors don’t dare remove a non-viable fetus which still exhibits some “life” functions; a woman may be denied life-saving chemotherapy lest it harm a pregnancy which may not be terminated; a 10-year-old child raped by a family member must flee to a distant state or undergo a pregnancy and delivery that could ruin her life. Who would have thought these nightmares possible in 21st-century America? 

This is only the beginning for the religious zealot majority on the Supreme Court, who recognize no right to privacy and long to unite church and state. Cancellation of marriage equality and the right to contraception is clearly on their agenda and all too attainable.

The issue in this election is simple and clear: whether we have a right to make personal reproductive health decisions or whether the state should control them.

Don’t let the obfuscation campaign by abortion opponents distort the point of Article 22. Let’s keep choice alive in Vermont, not only for Vermonters, but for residents of other states who see us as a point of light in the current political darkness. Vote yes.

Judy Olinick

Middlebury

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