In 2013, Vermont legalized physician-assisted suicide, becoming the third state to explicitly approve the practice. It also lacks the most basic legal protections for women considering abortion, for unborn victims of criminal violence, and for nascent human life. Further, Vermont is one of only a few states that does not protect healthcare freedom of conscience.
- The Vermont Constitution has been construed to provide a broader right to abortion than the U.S. Constitution.
- Further, the Vermont legislature has resolved that “it is critical for the… personal health and happiness of American women, that the right of women… to make their own personal medical decisions about reproductive and gynecological issues be vigilantly preserved and protected…. This legislative body reaffirms the right of every Vermont woman to privacy, autonomy, and safety in making personal decisions regarding reproduction and family planning….”
- Vermont allows abortions after viability, even in cases where the mother’s life or health is not endangered.
- Vermont does not provide even rudimentary protection for women or minors considering abortions. The state does not have an informed consent law, ultrasound requirement, parental involvement law for minors seeking abortions, abortion clinic regulations, or a prohibition on anyone other than a licensed physician performing an abortion.
- The state has an enforceable abortion reporting law, but does not require the reporting of information to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The measure pertains to both surgical and nonsurgical abortions.
- Vermont taxpayers fund “medically necessary” abortions for women receiving public assistance. This requirement essentially equates to funding abortion-on-demand in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s broad definition of “health” in the context of abortion.
Legal Recognition and Protection of Unborn And Newly Born:
- Vermont law does not recognize an unborn child as a potential homicide or assault victim.
- The state allows a wrongful death (civil) action when a viable unborn child is killed through a negligent or criminal act.
- Vermont does not require infants who survive abortions to be given appropriate, potentially life-saving medical care.
- Vermont’s “Baby Safe Haven Law” allows mothers to legally leave their infants at designated places and ensures the infants receive appropriate care and protection. The state permits a person or facility receiving an infant to not reveal the identity of the person relinquishing the child unless there is suspected abuse.
- Vermont does not prohibit or limit human cloning, destructive embryo research, or fetal experimentation.
- The state does not promote ethical alternatives to destructive embryo research.
- Vermont does not regulate egg harvesting or assisted reproductive technologies.
End of Life Laws:
- Physician-assisted suicide is legal in Vermont. Importantly, the law fails to include some of the most basic legal protections for those considering physician-assisted suicide. A physician who has only examined a patient once is permitted to prescribe life-ending drugs to the patient. The physician is not required to refer the patient for an evaluation by a psychiatrist to determine if the patient is depressed or being coerced to end his or her life. Further, the law does not require witnesses to be present when the patient takes a life-ending medication, increasing the possibility that persons who may wish to hasten a patient’s death might be with the patient and pressure the patient to end his or her life or even administer the lethal drugs instead of the patient.
- Vermont requires the state Department of Health to provide an annual report on end-oflife care and pain management. The state also has a “Patient’s Bill of Rights for Palliative Care and Pain Management” to ensure that healthcare providers inform patients of all of their treatment options.
- The state maintains a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) Paradigm Program.
Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Laws:
Participation in Abortions:
- Vermont currently provides no protection for the rights of conscience of healthcare providers who conscientiously object to participating or assisting in abortions or any other healthcare procedure.
Participation in Research Harmful to Human Life:
- Vermont currently provides no protection for the rights of healthcare providers who conscientiously object to participation in human cloning, destructive embryo research, or other forms of medical research, which violate a provider’s moral or religious belief.
What Happened in 2013:
- Vermont legalized physician-assisted suicide. Importantly, the law fails to include some of the most basic legal protections for those considering physician-assisted suicide. A physician who has only examined a patient once is permitted to prescribe life-ending drugs to the patient. The physician is not required to refer the patient for an evaluation by a psychiatrist to determine if the patient is depressed or being coerced to end his or her life. Further, the law does not require witnesses to be present when the patient takes a life-ending medication, increasing the possibility that persons who may wish to hasten a patient’s death might be with the patient and pressure the patient to end his or her life or even administer the lethal drugs instead of the patient.
- The Vermont House adopted a resolution supporting the “right” to abortion and commemorating the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The state did not consider any life-affirming measures related to abortion.
Recommendations for Vermont
Women’s Protection Project Priorities:
- Women’s Health Defense Act (5-month abortion limitation)
- Women’s Right to Know Act with reflection period
- Abortion Patients’ Enhanced Safety Act
- Abortion-Inducing Drugs Safety Act
- Parental Notification for Abortion Act
- Child Protection Act
- State Constitutional Amendment (providing that there is no state constitutional right to abortion)
- Abortion Mandate Opt-Out Act
- Defunding the Abortion Industry and Advancing Women’s Health Act
- Women’s Ultrasound Right to Know Act
- Coercive Abuse Against Mothers Prevention Act
- Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act
- Joint Resolution Commending Pregnancy Resource Centers
Legal Recognition and Protection for the Unborn:
- Crimes Against the Unborn Child Act
- Unborn Wrongful Death Act
- Born-Alive Infant Protection Act
- Pregnant Woman’s Protection Act
- Human Cloning Prohibition Act
- Destructive Embryo Research Act
- Prohibition on Public Funding of Human Cloning and Destructive Embryo Research Act
Healthcare Freedom of Conscience:
- Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act