Vermont governor signs amendment protecting abortion rights

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Republican Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday signed the document inscribing the Reproductive Liberty Amendment into the Vermont Constitution, formally changing the state’s founding document to protect reproductive rights including abortion.

Scott also signed a second constitutional amendment stating that slavery and indentured servitude are prohibited in the state.

He signed the documents before a cheering crowd of supporters in the packed House chamber of the Montpelier Statehouse, and was joined by Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos.

“Today our constitution takes on new meaning as a source of inspiration and law to clearly show the world we believe that everyone has the right to personal autonomy,” Scott said.

The Reproductive Liberty Amendment passed with a margin of more than 50 percentage points. The slavery amendment passed by more than 70 percentage points.

“These two amendments passed in every city and town in the state of Vermont,” Condos said.

A number of other states also approved abortion amendments last month, including California, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan. In Montana, voters rejected a measure that would have required health providers to take steps to save the life of an infant born alive, including after an attempted abortion.

The Vermont Legislature passed a law guaranteeing abortion rights in 2019. At the same time, the state began the process of amending the constitution. The proposal was passed by two consecutively elected Legislatures and approved by voters on Nov. 8.

The reproductive rights amendment goes beyond guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion by including the right to access family planning services and contraception, supporters said.

While Vermont was the first state to abolish adult slavery in 1777, its Constitution stated that no person 21 or older should serve as a slave unless bound by their own consent or “by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.” The amendment removes that language and adds that slavery and indentured servitude in any form are banned.

Scott’s signatures on the parchment paper with a gold seal formally inscribed the amendments into the Constitution.