Proposition 5: Reproductive Liberty Amendment – What is and is not
Proposition 5, or Prop 5 as it’s often called, is a provision to be added to the Vermont Constitution if passed via a statewide ballot in November. It would make reproductive autonomy and liberty a fundamental right free of government restrictions. The decision of whether or when to become a parent is deeply personal and central to our lives, and for many decades Vermont has recognized these reproductive choices. It’s important to recognize that Prop 5 will not change current Vermont practice which is to deny pregnancy termination after viability, currently about 22 weeks.
Many legislators received printed postcards and petitions that implied incorrectly that Prop would permit abortion up to days before birth and that it would lead to talented physicians leaving Vermont. It is unfortunate that anyone could insinuate such things. In fact nothing about Prop 5 enables abortions after viability. What Prop 5 does is to prevent elected officials from making the rules about reproductive choices. Legislators and Governors are exactly the wrong people to make decisions about the rules, just as they would be the wrong people to decide who is allowed to get a vasectomy, a hysterectomy, a sterilization procedure such as tubal ligation, or any other surgery.
Presently and going forward there are no abortions after viability (currently 22 weeks) except in settings of significant maternal risk of death, severe negative maternal health consequences, or a fetal condition that is incompatible with life. Even in those cases, a consultation with the hospital Ethics Committee is required. If the Ethics committee does not approve, the termination does not happen.
At UVM Medical Center in Burlington, the only place in Vermont where abortions are done after 18 weeks, no staff member is required to participate. Terminations are done in specific OR rooms at specific times so that willing staff are always available. Nobody is required to participate. There was one surgeon there who did not want to operate in OR rooms where abortions had been done and his wish was honored.
The passage of Proposal 5 has been deliberate and inclusive. It included a four-year legislative deliberation and two public hearings in which we received testimony from groups both supporting and opposing the amendment. The House passed Prop 5 with an overwhelming majority, sending the constitutional amendment to Vermont voters during the 2022 November election.