Fact Checker: VTDigger.org and Seven Days team up to analyze campaign rhetoric

Each week in Fact Checker, reporters and editors will evaluate the veracity of statements and rate them on a five-point scale: True, Mostly True, Debatable, Mostly False, and Udder Bull.
Got a claim you want fact-checked? Email [email protected] to reach Anne Galloway (VTDigger) and Andy Bromage (Seven Days).

CLAIM: Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott is “against a woman’s right to choose.”

— September 7 fundraising email by Jerry Greenfield, campaign treasurer for Progressive/Democrat Cassandra Gekas

FACTS: Last week, Ben & Jerry’s cofounder Jerry Greenfield served up some reasons to give money to Cassandra Gekas’ campaign for lieutenant governor. Most amounted to attacks on Phil Scott, the Republican incumbent.

In a fundraising email, Greenfield wrote, “Do you want Phil Scott to be Vermont’s next governor? … He is against a woman’s right to choose.”

Phil Scott served 10 years in the state Senate representing Washington County before he won election as lieutenant governor in 2010. He has consistently maintained a pro-choice stance — even when he cosponsored a parental notification bill during the 2003-2004 session that would require health care providers to alert parents before performing abortions on their minor-age daughters.
For the 2010 campaign, Scott completed an issue position survey for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in which he described himself as “pro-choice but with restrictions.”

“Because of my beliefs, I find it impossible to answer the question in your survey with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” Scott wrote. “I do support a woman’s right to choose; however, I do not believe it needs to be a ‘blank check’ in order to be effective.”

Scott wrote that he opposes “partial-birth” abortion “because I believe there are many options available to terminate a pregnancy well before that stage of development.” He also said he opposed government funding for abortions because using taxpayer dollars for something many people disagree with is “not an appropriate public policy.”

He wrote that he supports a fetal homicide bill — as long as it’s a “well-written law that carefully defines the circumstances under which a fetal homicide ruling would apply; for example, a car accident caused by a drunk driver in which a fetus was killed.”

The Vermont Right to Life Committee has listed Scott as a “preferred candidate” in past elections because of his support for parental notification. But the pro-life group has stopped short of endorsing him because of his pro-choice views, says executive director Mary Hahn Beerworth.

SCORE: Pro-choice advocates may view restrictions such as those Scott supports as a slippery slope toward outlawing all abortions — and may be rightly concerned about the slow erosion of abortion rights. But putting conditions on abortion such as parental notification for minors is not the same as categorically opposing a woman’s right to choose. It’s an oversimplification — and misleading — to say he is “against” a woman’s right to choose. A more accurate statement from the Gekas campaign might have read, “Phil Scott wants to restrict a woman’s right to choose.” For those reasons, we rate the claim “Mostly False.”

Anne Galloway


  1. MJ Farmer :

    Excellent job explaining Phil’s position, only he is running for Lt Gov. not Gov (quote from Greenfield). Thanks.

  2. Christian Noll :

    What if you’re checking the facts of a publicly recorded meeting and the meeting tape (by Channel 17) goes missing?

    What do you do then?

  3. Jed Guertin :

    I think your fact check meter is off by just a smidge.

    Phil’s statement,

    “Because of my beliefs, I find it impossible to answer the question in your survey with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” Scott wrote. “I do support a woman’s right to choose; however, I do not believe it needs to be a ‘blank check’ in order to be effective.”

    Seems to clearly suggests the meter is slightly off to the left (not political left). If he had simply said that Roe vs. Wade is the law of the land and I support that decision then Greenfield’s statement, etc. would be “mostly false.”

    However, it’s his desire to tweak law makes his position on women’s rights “debatable.”

    Sadly, Phil is a supporter of the Republican team of Romney/Ryan, therefore the Republican Platform’s 5 point position to take away women’s rights, eliminating Roe vs Wade.

    • Lance Hagen :

      Jed, based on your last statement, no member of a political party, be it Republican, Democrat or Progressive, can have a position on a subject that differs from the party platform. What a narrow and restrictive view of the world.

      • Jed Guertin :

        If you choose to base your position solely on my last statement without understanding what I said prior to the last paragraph then I suggest you read all my words in context.

        The Republican and Romney/Ryan position on women’s rights is draconian on a good day. Ryan goes even further and is strongly in the Todd Aikin “legitimate rape” camp.

        Roe v Wade is the law of the land, but it seems Phil wants to tweak that rule. Then there’s the Republican many state legislatures anti-women’s rights.

        And the best we here from Phil Scott is even with Roe v Wade I don’t want to give women that “blank check.”

        What blank check, Phil?

  4. Your interpretation of the semantics in this case of the word “against” a woman’s right vs “restrict” is giving Phil to much credit on your meter.To “restrict” would be “against” in some cases cases. Therefore it would be more accurate for the meter to read “mostly true” or at the least “debatable.”

    I assume Phil would not “restrict” a woman’s right in the case of incest or rape, that is the policy of the Republican Platform. Perhaps he should at least go on record concerning that plank.

  5. I agree with Jed. All of Phil’s positions, votes & proposals are those that have effectively made abortion inaccessible to millions of women , including those in dire medical need. This is the aim of most anti-choicers: to kill Roe by nibbling it away to nothing.

    Andy (or whoever did the f-c) has bought the antis’ rhetoric rather than understood the actual intent & consequences these longstanding anti-c tactics.

  6. Your interpretation of the semantics in this case of “against” a woman’s right vs. “restrict” is giving Phil the benefit of the doubt on you meter. To “restrict” would also be “against” in some or most cases, the percentages of which we don’t know.. Therefore at least the meter should read “debatable” and could be “mostly true.”

  7. Lance Hagen :

    What is interesting about the ‘abortion’ issue in Vermont is that it is a non-issue. It only surfaces, like clockwork, every 2 years during election campaign season, as a ‘scare tactic’. Other than in September and October of election years, we never hear it mentioned in Vermont.

  8. Jason Farrell :

    “He also said he opposed government funding for abortions because using taxpayer dollars for something many people disagree with is “not an appropriate public policy.”

    I would love to know if the Lt. Gov. holds this view on other public policy issues, or if his thinking is restricted solely to his views on abortion. Is a measure of public agreement on a policy issue a sensible way for government to determine “appropriate public policy”? Can we now take votes on whether we engage in war? Can we vote on the need for the Federal Reserve? I understand that there are as “many people” who disagree with war and the Federal Reserve as there are those who don’t support public funding of abortion.

  9. Mary Beerworth :

    Thanks for taking the time to go beyond the labels “pro-choice” and “pro-life” to get to the bottom of the claims made by the Gekas campaign. All the positions held by Lt Gov Phil Scott have been held constitutional by the US Supreme Court while upholding Roe v Wade….and therefore those positions are NOT considered an undue restriction on a woman’s right to choose….Scott is correct to consider himself pro-choice….while some who comment here need to be recognized as pro-abortion, not pro-choice.

    • Jed Guertin :

      None of the above comments are “pro-abortion.”

      But Beerworth is of the McClaughry labeling school.

      As Søren Aabye Kierkegaard said many over 150 years ago, “Once you label me you negate me.”

      Nice try, but the label won’t stick.

  10. Ed Fisher :

    Fact Check on some of the most rhetorical incumbants in Vermont history ? Why bother …..and who’s fact check? A womans right ,right now ,isn’t among the most important issues in Vermont or America !

  11. Ed Fisher :

    Sure keeps our minds off what’s really wrong though. Congratulations.



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