Judi Daly: Reproductive liberty is fundamental to a free society

This commentary was written by Judi Daly, a licensed social worker from Moretown, on behalf of Indivisible Mad River Valley, a Vermont branch of the nationwide grassroots movement with a mission to defend democracy.

I am a licensed clinical social worker, a volunteer with Planned Parenthood and the Reproductive Liberty Ballot Committee and a member of Indivisible Mad River Valley. I have lived in Vermont for 41 years, worked as a social worker for 39 years and raised my children here. 

Never have I felt so strongly about publicly speaking out for an issue. 

The right to make one’s own reproductive medical decisions, without the interference of politicians, is fundamental to a free society. Presently, those in opposition to the abortion amendment known as Article 22 or Proposal 5 are spreading misinformation about the article in an attempt to scare people so that they will vote no in November.

For example, the term “abortion up until birth” is a political term, not a medical term. There is no such thing as an abortion up until birth, and it is irresponsible to imply otherwise. These words, used by anti-abortion activists, are meant to spread misinformation and control people’s bodies.

Late-term abortions are rare in Vermont, and neither the patient nor provider makes the decision lightly as is implied in the anti-abortion rhetoric. 

The reality is, Article 22 does not change access to any form of reproductive health care. Vermont laws around reproductive freedom including abortion care will remain the same as they are today. Article 22 solidifies this by making it a right in the Vermont Constitution. It adds nothing new.

It is untrue that Article 22 will allow men to force pregnancy outcomes (whether for continuing or aborting the pregnancy) as the opposition is saying. That is not allowed now, and nothing about Article 22 will allow it.

The language of Article 22 is being targeted by the opposition as being too vague, too open to future court interpretation. They would have you believe that even if you are generally pro-choice, that the language of the amendment is bad. They are indeed looking for you, the pro-choice voter, to become confused and to think that maybe the amendment is not good, so you will vote no. 

As a reminder, in order to get to this point today, Article 22 was introduced more than four years ago. It was vetted by lawyers and stakeholders, including the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. It was passed by both the Vermont House and Senate, two times each, during two separate legislative sessions as required by Vermont law as the process to change the state constitution. Now we the people decide when we vote in November if it will in fact be written into our constitution. 

Is it possible that there will be court challenges to Article 22 if it is passed? Yes, that is possible. At present, any of our laws can be challenged, too. That is because we live in a free democracy where we have the right to bring forward court action. We don’t ensure rights only in situations where we imagine that no one will challenge those rights. Are we willing to let this guarantee of reproductive freedom slip away because we think we know better than those that worked so hard to craft the language to give us the most protection in the event of future litigation?

Don’t be persuaded into believing that we don’t need this in Vermont because we have the right to reproductive freedom now. No one can truthfully guarantee that there will never be any challenge to reproductive freedom here. Look how quickly the national landscape changed.

This is not a situation of people of good will having a disagreement. The misinformation campaign is targeted to play on your emotions to get you to vote no. If you support the right to make your own reproductive medical decisions, don’t fall for the negative rhetoric, stay the course and vote yes on Article 22.

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