Amid relentless anti-abortion attacks, the Freedom From Religion Foundation applauds recent moves in Vermont and Maryland to make abortion a constitutional right.
Last week, the Vermont House of Representatives passed the Reproductive Liberty Amendment or Proposition 5. This amendment states: “That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means.” This measure gained bipartisan backing in a 107-41 vote, with even Republican Gov. Phil Scott signalling his support. And in a state where 70 percent of people say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, the Reproductive Liberty Amendment is expected to get overwhelming voter approval on the November ballot. This would make Vermont the first state to guarantee the right to an abortion in its constitution.
In Maryland, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones has sponsored legislation that would protect abortion access in the state. Jones explained, “Restricting women’s family planning options is dangerous and unacceptable. We will do everything we can to make sure that women’s reproductive health care is always protected in Maryland and send the message loud and clear that this is a fundamental issue of liberty that cannot and should not be chipped away at or bargained for.” Like the Vermont amendment, Maryland’s House Bill 1171 would allow voters to determine if abortion access should be enshrined in the state constitution. Surveys conducted by Pew Research Center have found that 64 percent of Maryland residents believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Abortion protection laws are needed more than ever. In fact, 21 states have legislation that could be used to restrict the legal status of abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned by the ultraconservative Supreme Court this year. This includes FFRF’s home state of Wisconsin, which has a pre-Civil War law on the books that criminalizes abortion. And while 15 states and the District of Columbia have laws that protect the right to an abortion, no state yet has a constitutional guarantee, which adds an ever-important layer of protection. Vermont and Maryland would be the first to do just that.
“With the uncertain future of Roe v. Wade, we must do all that we can to codify abortion rights, since abortion is health care and the only organized opposition to it is religious in nature,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has long supported the Women’s Health Protection Act which renders religiously motivated, unscientific anti-abortion legislation null and void. We encourage you to contact your senators and ask them to pass this crucial bill.
As encouraging as some state-level developments are, we have to push for a national safeguard for abortion rights.