Rep. Sibilia: Responding to the reversal of ROE

Today marks one week since the US Supreme Court overturned 50 years of precedent and took the constitutional right to privacy away from women when they reversed the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling.

In the 1973 Roe ruling based in the 14th amendment, the right to abortion, wasn’t absolute (no constitutional rights are absolute) and the decision balanced the government’s interests in protecting mother’s health and fetus with a pregnancy timetable. During the first trimester, states could not regulate abortion at all, except to require they be performed by a physician. During the second trimester, states could regulate to protect maternal health but not for protecting the fetus. After viability, which includes the third trimester of pregnancy and the last weeks of the second trimester, abortions could be regulated and prohibited but there needed to be an exceptions for abortions necessary to save the “life” or “health” of the mother.

Last week the Supreme Court ruled that their is no right to privacy in reproductive healthcare decisions and made it possible for states to ban abortions at any time and require women to justify their reproductive healthcare decisions. Though the court has warned against it, several states are also actively exploring making leaving the state to get an abortion – illegal.

Two of the justices took this action despite testifying under oath at their confirmation hearings that Roe v Wade was settled precedent. One of the justices who took this action was seated on the court because Sen Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans – in the majority in 2016 – refused to hold a hearing for President Obama’s pick to replace Justice Scalia. That refusal was unprecedented.

This is unacceptable. There are not two sides to the issue of controlling one’s body. To have a fundamental right taken away from a group of Americans is unprecedented in the modern history of our country. Justice Thomas has suggested that the right to privacy in the use of contraception and the rights of LGBTQ Americans should also be reexamined. Here are ten things I am doing to take action:

#1. The United States government consists of three branches, each with its own powers and ability to check the others when they overreach. In the case of judicial overreach, Congress can check the judiciary by passing a new law, change the number of justices on the Supreme Court, or impose term limits on justices. Vermont is electing a new member to Congress this November, and that election is likely to be decided in the primary election on August 9. I’m working as hard as I can to elect Windham County Senator Becca Balint to the U.S. Congress. Becca is courageous, compassionate and has collaborated across parties in the Vermont Legislature to get things done over and over. Voting for Becca is a concrete action Vermonters can take to help bring function to Congress and a constitutional check to the court. 

#2 Vermonter’s reproductive freedom is currently still protected. A national ban has been threatened if Republicans regain control. That WOULD affect Vermonters. Vermonters have the ability to vote to include reproductive freedom as the 22nd Amendment of the Vermont Constitution. That vote will take place on November 8. The proposed 22nd Amendment to the Vermont Constitution leaves decisions about reproductive health to the individual and their doctor. 

#3 Contest the misinformation, fear and gore that are core tenets of the arguments against women’s bodily autonomy.Get the facts and speak up: In the U.S., more then 92% of abortions occur in the 1st trimester. Extensive statistics are found at the CDC website. Vermont’s current laws do not restrict abortion and opponents of the proposed 22nd Amendment have used gore to insist a viable baby can be aborted up to the moment of birth in Vermont. That is infanticide and it’s illegal. In Vermont, an individual can not get an abortion past 22 weeks without an ethics panel being convened in a hospital to assess the risk to mother’s life or fetal anomalies. At 22-24 weeks, virtually all cases are tragic losses of a wanted pregnancy. Read Vermont’s existing laws.

#4 The Vermont Legislature can not go back into session prior to January 2023, unless the governor calls us back. The governor can take some executive action without the legislature and has done so for natural disasters and COVID. It is unclear the full scope of actions we need to take to immediately protect the rights of Vermonters living out of state (college students, military, travel nurses, others) and to protect Vermonters helping residents from other states. Vermonters can write or call the Governor, the Speaker and the ProTem’s Office and tell them what you expect them to do to protect Vermonters in the short term. 

#5 Congress is the best means to check an overreaching court. We can urge our current delegation to act now to codify (put into law) Roe, to alter the terms of Supreme Court justices or alter the filibuster procedure. The federal delegation can urge the President to take executive action to protect women now. I have already reached out to the federal delegation to find out what the federal government is doing to protect Vermonters and their families that serve in the military and are stationed in other states

#6 Democrats currently have slight majorities in the U.S. House and Senate. If Republicans regain control of either the U.S. House or Senate we are likely to see more civil rights eroded. If you have time, volunteer for U.S. Senate races in other states. You can make calls from your home, send small donations, and coordinate letters. New Hampshire Democrat Maggie Hassan, Arizona Democrat, Mark Kelly Georgia Democrat Rafael Warnock Utah Independent Evan McMullin are all in Senate Districts that are closely contested. There are many other races to watch and volunteer for pick one and volunteer a few hours a week.

#7 Gen Z and Millennial generations are facing this loss of freedom and bodily autonomy head on, are feeling this moment intensely, are connected globally and have opinions.Talk with (and listen to) Millennials and Gen Z, show them you are going to fight for their future, show up with them to protest and help connect them to local, state and federal government. 

#8 In Windham County, we are electing two new state senators. As of right now there are 3 Democrats, 1 independent and 3 Republicans in the race. These 4 support the proposed 22nd Amendment and Vermonter’s right to bodily autonomy: Wichie Artu, D, Wendy Harrison, D, Nader Hashim, D and Tim Wessel, I. The Republicans in the race have specifically stated they are running to oppose bodily autonomy. In the August 9 Primary I am voting for the two most experienced candidates for Windham County Senate: Nader Hashim, a previous legislator who worked to pass Vermont Reproductive Freedom Act when he was in the house and Wendy Harrison, an experienced legislator, mother and the only woman running. 

#9 This is a serious inflection point for our country. We each need to step forward in this moment to contribute to protecting the freedom of our neighbors and our American ideals. You are needed. There are reasonable and small places to jump in – run for Justice of the Peace and help protect our local elections, run for school board or selectboard – the experience you need is living in a town or district and being willing to learn and listen. Call your Town Clerk and ask about Town Vacancies or volunteer opportunities. Too many Vermont legislative seats are uncontested. While it is too late to run as a Democrat, it is not too late for YOU to run for the Vermont House or a Vermont Senate Seat as an independent. Petitions with 50 signatures are due August 5th. I would be happy to share what it is like to run and serve as an independent.

#10 During my 8 years in the legislature I have worked on issues of rural equity – telecommunications infrastructure, school funding reform and climate change adaptation strategies for our poorest and most rural towns. And I have stood for civil rights and freedom for all, sponsoring the Reproductive Freedom Act and the Trans Panic Defense Act. If I am reelected in 2022 I will continue to fight to ensure all Vermonters’ bodily autonomy and civil rights are protected. I am running for election for the Dover, Jamaica, Somerset, Stratton and Wardsboro District in the Vermont House. Those wishing to support my campaign can request signs and make contributions on my blog site or by mail at PO Box 2052 West Dover, VT 05356. Please reach out at lsibilia@leg.state.vt.us.

More to come…watch these spaces for ways to help in the interim:


Rep. Laura Sibilia Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham

running for election in 2022 to represent Dover, Somerset, Stratton, Jamaica and Wardsboro

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