The state of Vermont took a decisive step on Tuesday to become the first territory in the United States to guarantee the right to abortion in its state constitution, through an amendment that will be voted on in a referendum in November.
This measure may be key to shielding that right in that territory in the northeastern United States in the event that, as all forecasts point out, the US Supreme Court overturns in the middle of this year the decision that guaranteed the possibility of abortion at the national level. national.
By 107 votes in favor and 41 against, the Vermont House of Representatives approved the idea of promoting the amendment, known as Proposition 5, which must now receive the support of the governor, Republican Phil Scott, who has expressed his support for the measure.
The amendment will then be put to a state referendum in the November legislative elections and is expected to go ahead because 70% of state residents think abortion should be legal in almost all cases, according to the Pew think tank.
The text of the initiative recognizes that “the right of a person to reproductive autonomy is central to the freedom and dignity of deciding the course of one’s life, and should not be denied or infringed unless it is guaranteed by a state interest applied through least restrictive means.
Abortion rights activists hope that other progressive states will follow Vermont’s example, given the prospect that the conservative majority in the US Supreme Court limits the right to abortion in the country.
In its 1973 “Roe versus Wade” decision, the Supreme Court set a precedent requiring abortion to be allowed in the US up to the point of “viability” of the fetus outside the womb, a limit that is now around 23 or 24 weeks of pregnancy.
If the Supreme Court overturns that decision, each state in the country will be able to decide how it regulates abortion, and 26 conservative-leaning territories are expected to take steps to restrict or ban it altogether, according to the Guttmacher reproductive health research center.
Vermont already has a law that protects the right to abortion throughout pregnancy, but the approval of a constitutional amendment would imply further shielding that guarantees and making it more difficult to repeal it.
Another 20 states and the District of Columbia – where the US capital is located – have also passed state laws that protect the right to abortion in some way, although some of them, such as Florida, have recently imposed restrictions, according to the Center for Human Rights. reproductive.