Reproductive Rights are Civil Rights

ELIZABETH DEUTSCH

Elizabeth Deutsch, RN is the Director of NYS and New England Community Mobilization Housing Works and a resident of Hinesburg.

As a mother and a nurse, I am able to say that every pregnancy is unique, and every person’s circumstance is different. We all deserve access to health care based on our medical needs and a health care provider’s best judgement, and no one else.

Vermont is on its way to becoming the first state in the U.S. to explicitly protect reproductive rights in its state constitution, and for that I applaud the efforts in the Vermont Legislature to pass both the abortion rights bill, H.57, and the constitutional amendment, Prop 5, to ensure reproductive liberty in Vermont.

Vermonters have the right to safe, legal abortion care without red tape or government interference, and the majority of our representatives understand this. Additionally, the proposed constitutional amendment upholds the will of Vermonters – that an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course.

The Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade as soon as this year, which would block millions of people from the health care they need. If Roe is overturned, abortion rights will be determined by the laws of each state.

I applaud elected officials in Vermont who are taking an affirmative position by working to pass H.57 and Prop 5 to send a clear message to all Vermonters that they stand for the protection and preservation of reproductive rights.

Consider for a moment what is happening across the United States. Right now, 20 states are poised to ban access to abortion should Roe be overturned, threatening access for more than 25 million women. That’s more than a third of women of reproductive age in this country.

There is an alarming increase in abortion ban proposals in state legislatures. Fifteen states have introduced or passed bills that would ban abortion at six weeks – before many people even know they’re pregnant. In March alone, an extreme six-week abortion ban bill passed through Georgia’s state legislature and Mississippi’s governor signed another six-week abortion ban into law. If enforced, these unconstitutional bans will immediately put patients’ lives at risk and criminalize health care practitioners for providing basic medical care.

These laws are unconstitutional, and they are directed at women. Lawmakers seem overly interested in regulating women’s bodies, autonomy and future, yet the United States is the only industrialized country where the rates of maternal deaths have increased, not decreased. Today, women have a higher risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth than their mothers did. Our society spends a lot of time and energy shaming women for an unwanted pregnancy, and clearly not enough time treating women who carry a pregnancy to term.

This is our opportunity to let our elected officials in Vermont know that we support their efforts to protect these fundamental rights. I urge you to contact your representatives and senators to tell them you support both H.57 and Prop 5, because reproductive freedom and civil rights go hand in hand.

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