Pro Life vs Planned Parenthood Clash Over Abortion Rights in Vermont

Editor's Note: With 45 days left until the presidential election, PolicyMic's Audrey Farber will be posting a daily update on the state of abortion rights in the U.S., covering legislative challenges to Roe v. Wade in all 50 states. So far, we've gotten updates on Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Check in every day to keep track!

On Thursday, six anti-abortion protesters in Burlington, Vermont filed a suit against the city, claiming that new buffer zones outside clinics prevented them from offering "emotional, financial and spiritual support to patients, as well as information about adoption." Planned Parenthood representatives countered that the information provided was "over-zealous", and that the offering of advice infringed on patients' privacy. Meanwhile, neighboring business owners expressed their concerns that protesters were driving away their customers.

But what's the state of abortion in Vermont beyond the buffer zones of Burlington?

Vermont

Despite its being a bulwark for liberalism within the Northern New England brotherhood, Vermont’s statutes on Crimes and Criminal Procedure (Title 13) include abortion (Chapter 3). The statute assesses criminal punishments to those who induce miscarriage in a pregnant woman (but not the woman herself), and states “anyone who sells or gives away anything for the purpose of producing such miscarriage” shall be subject to both imprisonment and fines. However, these laws remain unchanged since before the passage of Roe vs. Wade, so are both in direct violation of the Supreme Court ruling thus unconstitutional, and unenforceable.

Though a literalist might consider Vermont’s abortion laws quite strict, they are not practicable, especially considering Vermont’s left-leaning state government, no shortage of clinics in the small state providing abortion services, and the availability of public funding. Vermont education statutes require public schools include abortion in comprehensive health education, along with adoption, the outcomes of adolescent pregnancy, contraceptives, and other aspects of sexuality and development. Vermont has no waiting periods, mandated parental involvement, or limits on public funding for abortions.

This summer, the Burlington city council even approved a measure to create a 35-foot buffer zone around Planned Parenthood that anti-abortion protesters must abide by. The buffer zone law went into effect \this week, and members of the anti-abortion group who had been protesting the clinic wasted no time in suing the city in U.S. District Court, claiming the buffer violated their free speech rights. 

Even Vermont’s Republican Lieutenant Government Phil Scott, who will be challenged in November by progressive Cassandra Gekas, has moderate views relative to his party on the personhood of a fetus. It is unlikely, even in the event of a Republican takeover of Vermont state government, that the state will face abortion-related legislation on par with that of states like Mississippi and Arizona.