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Proposal 5: Reproductive Liberty Amendment


There have been no restrictions on abortion in Vermont since 1972, when the state Supreme Court struck down Vermont’s anti-abortion law. A year later, Roe v. Wade established that states could not categorically prohibit abortions, but could impose restrictions (specifically, after the first trimester). In 2014, the Vermont legislature repealed an old (and by that time federally unconstitutional) statute that had made it a crime to perform an abortion.

In 2019, the General Assembly passed H.57, which with the governor’s signature became the Freedom of Choice Act. It changed nothing in practice, but codified Vermont’s long-standing practice of safe, legal access to reproductive health care, including abortion. Vermont’s policy has long recognized that decisions related to reproductive health care and abortion are deeply personal and private and are best left to the individual and their doctor. As before 2019, private healthcare practitioners in Vermont, including hospitals, are not obligated to participate in any abortion.

With support for Roe eroding In the U.S. Supreme Court and growing concerns about diminishing federal protections, the Vermont Senate introduced the Reproductive Liberty Amendment In 2019, triggering a four-year process to enactment that would enshrine existing protections in the state Constitution.

Facts … and Misinformation

Proposal 5 is the proposed Reproductive Liberty Amendment to the Vermont Constitution. Unfortunately, there is a lot of damaging misinformation floating around, fueled and funded by advocacy groups. Here is what Prop 5 does and does not do.

First and most important, Prop 5 is not the final say on this difficult question. Rather, it’s a bill that would put before the voters of Vermont the following language to be added to our Constitution:

Article 22. [Personal reproductive liberty]

“That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.”

It’s difficult to change our constitution, as it should be. In this four-year process, Prop 5 passed the legislature in the 2019-2020 biennium and has now passed again during the current 2021–2022 biennium. In the final step, this measure will be placed on the November 2022 ballot for all Vermont voters to decide. I believe this is necessary and wise, and it’s one of the key reasons I voted yes — to leave this important decision to all of us.

Access to safe, legal abortion under the care of a physician has been a right available in Vermont since 1972. While Prop 5 would enshrine this right in our Constitution, it would not change — or expand in any way — Vermont’s medical standards or current practices when it comes to reproductive health care. Hospitals and health care facilities currently have, and will continue to have, the right to develop and enforce their own policies. Here are two examples:

  • Prop 5 does not authorize abortions performed days or hours away from birth as described in your letter. So-called “partial birth abortions” were banned by a 2003 federal law and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007. Abortions later in pregnancy — up to 24 weeks — do happen rarely in Vermont but only when medically necessary (i.e., to save the life of the mother or if the fetus cannot survive outside the womb) and must conform to ethics guidelines at the provider’s hospital.
  • All hospitals in Vermont are recipients of federal funding and are therefore must comply with certain federal laws, including the Church Amendments, which protect health care providers’ “rights of conscience” to refuse to participate in providing care that violates their religious or moral convictions — including abortions. This will not change.

Abortion is a wrenching moral issue. It’s a difficult and painful personal decision that I believe should be left between a woman and her doctor. That’s how things stand in Vermont now, and how they will continue to stand if the constitutional amendment is adopted.

Manchester Journal: James Makes a Case for Your Vote

To the Editor: Two years ago, our country changed course in a dramatic election characterized by bitter division and political polarization — described by Pew Research Center as “the defining feature of early 21st century American politics.

“In some ways, I’m running for the Vermont House of Representatives as a response. I’m a Democrat, but grew up in a Republican family in the rural “red state” of Nebraska. I respect people of all parties and believe the best ideas come from diverse sources. I hold to my values while seeking common ground and collaboration. These traits will help me to be effective in Montpelier, where it requires a team effort — and strong interpersonal skills — to get legislation passed.

I‘m mostly running because I care deeply about the Northshire, my home for 22 years. If elected, I hope to help move Vermont forward on the issues that impact so many of us. I’ll work on affordable and accessible health care, housing and childcare, and strong schools that serve every student. I’m also committed to protecting our environment and responding to climate change while creating a diverse “green economy” that will create jobs and attract residents.

Running for office has been one of the most positive, hopeful experiences of my life. I’ve knocked on hundreds of doors, and almost without exception, my Northshire neighbors have been welcoming and willing to talk. House by house, I’ve learned that political polarization will be healed one conversation at a time. It’s a grassroots movement, and I am proud to play a small part in it.Constituent communication is a high priority for me.

If elected, please watch the newspapers and my Facebook page (“Kathleen James for State Representative”) for a meeting in your town before January. I’ve pledged to hold regular meetings in all four Towns — Manchester, Arlington, Sunderland and Sandgate — and to publish an e-newsletter to keep you informed.Through extensive training with Emerge Vermont and my involvement with the Vermont Democratic Party, I’ve built a network of trusted colleagues — including former, current and incoming legislators — in the statehouse. I’m ready to hit the ground running.

To learn more about my background, my volunteer contributions to the Northshire and my endorsements, go to:

On Nov. 6, your vote is your voice. Now is the time for new ideas, new energy and new leadership for the Northshire. Please vote for me in this momentous midterm election.Kathleen JamesManchester Center

The Great Debates

All three Bennington-4 house candidates have participated in a series of candidate forums this fall. Click on the links below to watch or learn more.

September 11 Candidate Forum

Sponsored by: Vermont Interfaith Action

Location: East Arlington Federated Church

Format: Moderator questions plus audience Q&A

Click here to read article:,550203

September 24 Candidate Forum

Sponsored by: Bennington County Republicans and Bennington County Democrats

Location: Burr & Burton Academy

Format: Moderator questions plus audience Q&A

Click here to watch video:

Click here to read article:,551452

October 3 Candidate Forum

Sponsored by: Greater Northshire Access Television

Format: Moderator questions taped in GNAT studio

Click here to watch video:


Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund IE PAC Endorses Kathleen

Earlier this week, I was endorsed by the Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund IE PAC. This is an independent, nonpartisan political group that supports pro-women’s health candidates for legislative and statewide office. If elected, I’ll look forward to being a fierce advocate for family planning, affordable and accessible health care, comprehensive sex education, contraception, and a woman’s right to choose.

Vermont National Education Association Endorses Kathleen James

We have received the endorsement of the Vermont National Education Association. Kathleen is grateful for their support. She is strongly commitment to quality education for all children in the Northshire.

The Vermont-National Education Association is the union of Vermont educators,13,000 professionals who teach the state’s children every day.

Vermont-NEA was founded in 1850 as the Vermont Teachers’ Association on the premise that the people in the state’s classrooms should be an integral part of Vermont’s public education system. Over the intervening 168 years, the association grew from fewer than 400 members in only dozens of schools to more than 13,000 in virtually all of Vermont’s schools. The association is the state-level affiliate of the National Education Association, itself the largest union in the country with more than 3.2 million members.