- Matt Morris | John James
When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June and made it possible for states to ban abortion, many American women who had taken their reproductive rights for granted were shocked and outraged. But abortion rights activists have been sounding the alarm about this possibility for some time.
Their warnings grew louder in 2016, when then-Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to consider then-president Barack Obama's Supreme Court pick 10 months before the election, on the grounds that the American people should decide the composition of the court. McConnell rolled the dice and won: With his help, the winner of that election, president Donald Trump, went on to appoint three conservative justices to the court, all of whom joined the majority in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade.
Abortion rights supporters in Vermont did what they could to prepare for this scenario. In 2019, the Vermont legislature introduced a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would protect "personal reproductive autonomy" for all Vermonters. On November 8, voters will decide whether to adopt the measure, known as Proposal 5, or Article 22.
Vermont is one of three states where voters are considering such amendments; Michigan and California are the others. The nation will be watching the outcome — and the potential impact the issue has on congressional races.
Proposal 5 is one of two constitutional amendments on the ballot this fall; Kevin McCallum explains them both in "Lasting Changes." It's not often that Vermonters consider constitutional changes. As McCallum notes in his piece, most recent amendments have involved administrative matters. Not so with this question about reproductive rights. Paul Gillies, a Montpelier attorney and expert in Vermont constitutional history, put it in perspective: "This is not tinkering — it's moving us into big, fundamental questions that ought to be settled by voters through a constitutional amendment," he told McCallum.
If you've got strong opinions about abortion, this is your chance to express them. You should also read up on the candidates competing to join Vermont's congressional delegation. This issue could very well come up in Congress; there's already been talk of a possible federal ban on abortion. Having reproductive rights protected in Vermont's constitution would put state officials in a stronger legal position to fight such a potential ban in the courts.
To participate in this election, you have to be registered to vote in Vermont. If you're eligible but aren't yet registered, find out how to fix that in "Make Your Mark." Vermont residents who are already registered should be getting a ballot in the mail any day now.
Once you fill it out, you can drop it in the mail or bring it to your town clerk before the end of the last business day before the election.
Or bring your ballot with you to the polls on November 8. Then you'll get an "I voted" sticker — this fall's hottest fashion accessory, for sure — to show you've done your part to keep our democracy going.