CLARENDON — The town’s representatives to the State House were grilled at the annual town floor meeting about how they voted with regard to H.57, “An act relating to preserving the right to abortion,” that was passed in the House a few weeks ago.
“The hot topic this year was, of course, H.57, which we passed out of our committee, which is an act relating to preserving the right to an abortion, which I’m sure everybody has opinions and questions about,” said Rep. Thomas Burditt, R-West Rutland, who voted “nay” on H. 57 when it came to the House floor. Burditt is vice president of the House Committee on Judiciary.
“I have to stand up and speak for God on this H.57. Saturday I held my brother’s hand when they pulled his life support and I thought to myself, my mind drifted back to H.57, and I said to myself, we as human beings, how can we take a live baby, day of birth, and say they’re nothing?” said resident Marjorie Southard. “I’d like to know how come Vermont always has to take on every other, like California or Colorado, with our marijuana or whatever. This is Vermont, this is rural Vermont, why are we trying to citify all those rules and have them stamped in Vermont. We’re not the same as the rest of the states in the United States.”
Someone then said no Vermonters live in the state any longer.
“God is still here, He’s still speaking and He’s still alive, so woe to you legislators that get up there and do whatever you want,” said Southard. “At the very end, we will be accountable.”
Burditt repeated that he voted “no” on the bill. “Yes, abortions late in term are legal in Vermont. If this bill passes, they still will be,” Burditt said. “And what doesn’t happen … luckily Vermont has no abortion providers that will provide late-term abortions.”
He said there are late-term abortions done for medical reasons, when the life of the mother or the baby is threatened. He said slightly over 91 percent of all abortions in Vermont happen within the first trimester. “Right or wrong, that’s when they happen, at 12 weeks or less,” he said, adding that in 2016, 1.3 percent of abortions in Vermont happened after 21-weeks, all were done for medical reasons.
“There’s no mothers walking into a clinic that are eight months pregnant and just deciding, ‘I don’t want this,’ and getting it aborted, it just doesn’t happen,” Burditt said.
He said getting a medical abortion isn’t simple, either. “It’s not a snap decision that’s done, there’s a process that you have to go through to get it done,” he said.
Burditt acknowledged there are no restrictions on abortion in Vermont, after being questioned by resident, Gail Gillam.
Gillam pointed out that University of Vermont Medical Center does provide elective abortions.
A Burlington Free Press article published online in January 2018 reported that in September 2017, the UVM Medical Center Board of Trustees voted to reverse a 45-year-old policy and provided elective abortions.
Burditt said he wasn’t aware of what UVM Medical Center has done.
Burditt was also questioned about why he didn’t support any of the amendments proposed for the bill. He said they were unconstitutional.
Rep. David Potter, D-West Rutland, was also questioned regarding his positions on several issues, H.57, climate change and carbon taxes among them.
“We aren’t going to have a gas tax this biennium,” he said. “What we will do is probably have some form of incentive to buy an electric vehicle. An electric vehicle, of course, you save a lot of money on gas and a lot of money will stay in-state.”
Several in the audience criticized Potter for his support of things that would reduce Vermont’s carbon footprint, saying the state does not produce a great deal of carbon and that electric vehicles are not as “green” as they’ve been purported to be.
“I do believe in climate change,” Potter said. “I think there’s a great deal of science that supports the idea.”
He also said he would never counsel a woman to get an abortion but feels the decision should be made between her and her doctor.