Reproductive rights question passes in every town throughout Vermont

Organizers of the state constitutional amendment look next toward protections for abortion patients in Vermont who hail from states with prohibitions

In every Vermont town, a majority of voters on Nov. 8 supported Proposal 5, the measure that wrote reproductive liberties into the Vermont Constitution.

Results from the Vermont Secretary of State's Office show the campaign for Proposal 5, also known as Article 22, succeeded in building a sweeping coalition of support, far beyond liberal Chittenden County and the state's more-populous, deep-blue downtowns.

Overall, the measure prevailed by a vote of 77% to 23%. And virtually every corner of the state delivered a decisive victory for Prop 5, including typically conservative strongholds and villages with just a few dozen voters.

In Lowell, the Northeast Kingdom town that has reported the least support for Prop 5, a majority of voters still backed it. Of the 350 voters who cast ballots in the town, 51% approved of the measure, while 48% opposed it.

The story was similar in other conservative enclaves, such as Irasburg, Granby, Lemington, and Morgan, each of which posted slim majorities in favor of the amendment.

In the most liberal corners of the state, the majorities were overwhelming. Norwich voters backed the measure 93% to 7%, while Brattleboro voters supported it 90% to 10%.

In southern Vermont, a number of voters, several of them men, told VTDigger they had gone to the polls in support of Prop 5.

James Morgan, 50, of Pownal, voted for Prop 5 - and for Republicans up and down the ballot.

“Why should anybody tell you what you cannot or you can do?” he said. “This is a free country.”

Jeff Lubeck of Bennington described himself as politically unaffiliated. “I go for the people, not the party,” he said. On Tuesday, he also checked “yes” on Prop 5.

“I do believe it's the woman's choice,” said Lubeck, a retiree. “Are they gonna be forced to have this kid? They should have the option at least available to them.”

As a virtual press conference on Nov. 9, the leaders of the campaign for Prop 5 heralded their success.

“There were many opponents along the way that said that Vermonters didn't understand the implications of this amendment, but I say we fully understand, and we fully understood that our autonomy over our bodies is not up for discussion,” said Mia Schultz, president of the Rutland Area Branch of the NAACP. “That is the message that we sent in the election.”

The Prop 5 campaign is now “ramping down,” said Lucy Leriche, vice president of public affairs for the Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund.

However, the coalition of organizations that advocated for Prop 5, including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Vermont, will likely focus next on abortion shield laws, Leriche said, to protect Vermont abortion providers who see patients from states with abortion bans.

Of the three states where voters decided on Nov. 8 to write reproductive rights into their state constitutions, Vermont passed its measure by the widest margin, with 77% support. Michigan passed its constitutional amendment with 57%. California voters approved a similar amendment - which explicitly protects the freedom to choose abortion and contraception - with 65%.

Michigan's constitutional amendment differed from Vermont's in one major way: Its language explicitly grants the state the power to regulate abortions “after fetal viability.”

In Kentucky, voters narrowly rejected an amendment that would have stated that the state constitution grants no right to an abortion and that the state has no obligation to fund abortions.

Leriche said she had spoken with organizers from both Michigan and California about their strategy to bring the amendment before voters, and she has received inquiries from people in other states who are interested in replicating Vermont's constitutional change there.

“The short answer is yes, people are reaching out to us,” Leriche said.

She said people in other states are “intrigued and very interested” that Vermont's amendment did not include any mention of gestational limits and still succeeded in a state that is often described as having the toughest constitutional amendment process in the United States.

“They see Vermont as being very forward-thinking,” Leriche said.

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