Howard Dean: The ever-increasing threat to women's rights

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The Trump administration and conservative, right-wing politicians across the nation are waging a war on women's rights. Health care coverage, birth control access and abortion rights are being systematically dismantled at both the state and federal level. With the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the final dam protecting reproductive rights seems set to break. Roe v. Wade could be overturned as soon as this year.

The Trump administration has committed to overturning the court case which legalized abortion in 1973. In 2018 while speaking to an anti-abortion group, Vice President Mike Pence proclaimed that a change to "the center of American law" would happen "in our time." With Kavanaugh's confirmation this time appears to be at hand.

A number of states are passing anti-abortion legislation that will inevitably make its way to the Supreme Court. Since 2011, politicians have passed more than 400 new state abortion restrictions that shame, pressure, and punish people who have decided to have an abortion. Currently, 20 states are poised to ban access to abortion should Roe be overturned, threatening access for more than 25 million women. West Virginia has amended their state constitution to ban abortion and prohibit funding for abortion services. Texas voters will consider a similar constitutional amendment this fall. Many state bans are designed to be "triggered" and take effect automatically if Roe is overturned.

Overturning Roe would block millions of people from the health care they need. If Roe is overturned, one in three women of reproductive age could live in states where abortion is not only outlawed, but criminalized.

Vermont currently has no laws affirmatively protecting abortion or reproductive rights. According to the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of Vermonters support abortion rights. The Vermont legislature is currently considering H. 57, an abortion rights bill and Proposition 5, a constitutional amendment, which would ensure every Vermonter is afforded the right to reproductive liberty. With the threat to reproductive rights at the federal level it is imperative that the Vermont legislature pass both H. 57 and Proposition 5.

Every person should have the right to control their life, body, and future. Every woman should have the right to decide when and if she wants to become a parent. Every person should have the right to make their own health care decisions with the input of their health care provider and without the interference of politicians.

In this age of radical conservatism with a war being waged against women's rights, Vermont needs to make it clear that as a state we will guarantee reproductive liberty. Passing H. 57 and amending the Constitution of the State of Vermont to ensure that every Vermonter is afforded personal reproductive liberty is necessary to protect the health, dignity, and civil rights of all Vermonters.

Howard Dean, a political consultant and commentator, is a former Democratic governor of Vermont, former chair of the Democratic National Committee and former presidential candidate.

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