Op-ed by Rhoni Basden, Executive Director of Vermont Works for Women and Cary Brown, Executive Director of Vermont Commission on Women
On August 26, 1920, the 19th amendment to the US constitution was certified, and women’s right to vote was finally recognized. We celebrate this as Women’s Equality Day, and this year Vermonters will have the opportunity to use that vote in a powerful way when the Reproductive Liberty Amendment, also known as Article 22, appears on the ballot in Vermont’s general election.
Starting in early October, registered voters will begin deciding whether or not to amend the state constitution to protect every person's right to make their own reproductive decisions, like whether and when to become pregnant, use temporary or permanent birth control, or seek abortion care.
On June 24th, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade federal ruling which held that abortion was a constitutional right. This decision now leaves abortion rights to be determined at the state level.
Currently, in Vermont, access to birth control, emergency contraception, and abortion remains unrestricted and is protected by state law.
However, enshrining reproductive liberty in the state constitution is the strongest measure that Vermont can take to protect the reproductive freedom of its current citizens and future generations due to the difficulty of passing constitutional amendments here. To appear on the ballot this fall, Article 22 had to be approved by the Vermont Legislature twice.
If approved by voters, Article 22 would amend the Vermont constitution to state “that an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.”
In states with access to reproductive rights, women’s incomes are almost 16% higher than the women’s national median wage, according to the Center for American Progress. A 2019 report from the Insitute for Women’s Policy Research showed that access to contraception not only increased women’s earnings, but also their educational attainment and labor force participation, and improved women’s career outcomes. And a long-term research study has shown that women who are unable to obtain an abortion are more likely to be underemployed and experience household poverty along with their children.
With gender equity and the economic well-being of Vermont women and youth driving our work, Vermont Works for Women endorses the Reproductive Liberty Amendment.
By passing Article 22, Vermont would become the first state to explicitly protect reproductive rights in its constitution and pave the way for other states to follow in its footsteps.
Register to vote today online at https://olvr.vermont.gov/, in person at your Town Clerk’s office, or through same-day registration at your polling location on Election Day, November 8, 2022. All registered Vermont voters will be mailed an absentee ballot no later than October 1, 2022, so you can vote early if you want to.Vermont Works for Women (VWW) promotes economic justice by advancing gender equity and supporting women and youth at every stage of their career journeys. Its programs include: career education and exploration for middle and high school girls and gender-expansive youth; employment and career coaching and hard skills training for women, including incarcerated women; and gender equity services for schools and businesses to improve educational and workplace cultures for women.
Vermont Commission on Women (VCW) is an independent non-partisan state government commission working to advance rights and opportunities for women and girls in Vermont since 1964.