A district attorney in Utah says he refuses to enforce a new law banning abortions after 18 weeks. In Colorado, the secretary of state is barring her staff from taking work-related trips to Alabama, a protest against that state’s decision last week to set the strictest abortion limits in the country. And in Vermont, Democrats who control the state Legislature have approved a law aimed at providing some of the strongest protections of abortion rights in the nation; supporters have pleaded with the state’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, to sign it.
The Vermont measure sets no restrictions on abortions and would prohibit the government from interfering in any way with the right to have the procedure. It does not change the status quo in Vermont, where there are no legal limits on when or under what circumstances a woman can decide to end a pregnancy. But supporters say that the bill sends an important message to the nation about the state’s views on abortion rights, at a time when other states are sending far different signals.
The measure also has a practical purpose for the future, the supporters say, in case the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the decision that made abortion legal.
“In this time when, across the country and nationally, Roe v. Wade and individuals’ access to private, reliable reproductive health care and abortion is in question, we thought we’d better be clear in Vermont,” said Ann Pugh, a state representative from South Burlington and one of the bill’s lead sponsors.
As conservatives in states like Alabama, Georgia and Missouri race to pass some of the strictest restrictions on abortions in decades, a pushback is developing as well. In Democratic-held or Democratic-leaning states, abortion rights supporters who are alarmed by the new laws and by the threat represented by a more conservative Supreme Court are trying to repeal abortion restrictions or limit government’s say over women’s reproductive decisions.
Across the country Tuesday, including in Minnesota, supporters of abortion rights gathered outside state houses and on the steps of the Supreme Court to protest the recent abortion bans.
Democratic officials in other states are also fighting back against the wave of anti-abortion bills.
The newly elected Democratic governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, has promised to veto legislation passed by the Republican-controlled state Senate that would ban the most common second-trimester abortion procedure.
In Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has said he would veto a bill passed by the Republican-controlled Assembly that would make it a felony punishable by prison for a physician to fail to care for babies who survive an abortion procedure (a circumstance experts say is exceedingly rare).
The Nevada Assembly gave final approval Tuesday to a bill, already passed by the state Senate, that would repeal a statute on the books since 1911 that makes it a crime for women to terminate their own pregnancies without a physician. The Democratic governor, Steve Sisolak, is expected to sign it.
Vermont has perhaps gone further than any other state to codify protections for abortion rights. A spokeswoman for Scott ended any uncertainty about the bill’s fate Monday evening, saying the governor had ruled out vetoing the bill and that it would become law, either with or without his signature.
Critics of the measure said it was irresponsible and unnecessary, since the state puts no restrictions on abortion.
“This is going to be one of those things where you’re going to look back and say, ‘What were they thinking of, really?’ ” said Mary Hahn Beerworth, executive director of Vermont Right to Life Committee.
Beyond the bill, Vermont lawmakers have approved an amendment to the state constitution in recent weeks that would declare “personal reproductive autonomy” to be a fundamental right. The process to amend the constitution is lengthy, requiring several years at least.
If it is adopted, Vermont would be the first state to amend its constitution to specifically protect abortion rights, according to Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a policy organization that supports abortion rights.