New England Regional News

Proposals to Amend Vt. Constitution Include Abortion Rights

As the Vermont Legislature kicks off its session Wednesday, a leading member of the state Senate is calling for changes to the Vermont Constitution.

Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden County), the Senate president pro tempore, is proposing four amendments.

In one, he wants to enshrine abortion access in the state constitution, in case any changes come from the U.S. Supreme Court.

“There’s a lot of anxiety,” Ashe said of the potential for future debates on abortion rights before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Mary Hahn Beerworth, the executive director of the Vermont Right to Life Committee, plans to bring diverse voices from around the state to the Vermont State House to express opposition to the proposal.

“We’ll have a great conversation about the meaning of life and alternatives to abortion — adoption— and we’ll be having conversations about this very intricate subject,” Hahn Beerworth told necn Tuesday.

Ashe also hopes Vermont’s two-year term for governor becomes a four-year job, saying more would be accomplished if governors were not seeking re-election so frequently.

He’d like to see equal rights guaranteed in the Vermont Constitution for all people, regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion or other traits.

And what Ashe called “antiquated” language around slavery would be eliminated, under his proposals.

“I think protecting the rights of women, making sure that all people are protected under law, and making sure we’re sending the right message about the inclusive environment we’re trying to create for people of all different backgrounds in a more diverse world — all of these are really crucial things,” he said in an interview with necn.

Sen. Ashe knows he has a long and winding road ahead of him if he and colleagues are going to update the Vermont Constitution.

It takes a two-thirds approval vote in the Vermont Senate, and passage in the Vermont House of Representatives under one biennium of the legislature, then, after an election cycle, support from those chambers again.

Finally, the issues would go before Vermont voters for their approval before amendments to the Vermont Constitution would become official.

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