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Monday, May 29, 2023

Students, community members rally in support of Reproductive Liberty Amendment

Middlebury students, local residents, and elected officials gathered in town on Oct. 23 to rally support for the Reproductive Liberty Amendment to the Vermont Constitution.
Middlebury students, local residents, and elected officials gathered in town on Oct. 23 to rally support for the Reproductive Liberty Amendment to the Vermont Constitution.

More than 60 Middlebury students and residents rallied at Triangle Park on Oct. 23 at 1 p.m. to support the Reproductive Liberty Amendment — Proposition 5, Article 22 — to the Vermont Constitution. The rally was organized by the Middlebury College Democrats and the Addison County Democratic Committee to educate voters on Proposition 5, Article 22, which was passed by the legislature in February 2022 and will be on the ballot for voters in the Nov. 8 midterm elections. 

The amendment reads as follows: “[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.”

Freddi Mitchell ’25 and Maggie Bryan ’25, the co-presidents of College Democrats, were contacted by Zoe Kaslow, Addison County Democratic Committee chair, and Sam Donnelly, Planned Parenthood campaign manager for the Reproductive Liberty Amendment, about organizing a rally to garner support for the amendment. 

“Freddi and I were quickly drawn to the issue because it’s something the College Democrats prioritize and are passionate about,” Bryan said. “Ballot measures are notoriously confusing, which creates inaccessibility to voting and knowledge of issues, and the solution is to educate the electorate.”

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In June 2022, the Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that abortion rights were not guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, overturning almost 50 years of precedent established in Roe v. Wade. The decision triggered anti-abortion laws in thirteen states, banning abortion with limited exceptions, and access to abortion in several other states is now legally murky or threatened

“There’s not much education within the school community about Article 22 because there are a lot of students who don’t think it will affect them, but the amendment would protect future Middlebury students who come from states with strict abortion laws,” Mitchell said. 

Among the speakers at the rally were Vermont State Senator Ruth Hardy (D-Addison), Democratic candidate for Vermont Attorney General Charity Clark, Democratic candidate for Vermont State Treasurer Mike Pieciak and other state legislators and local officials. 

“For the past four years, the Vermont legislature has been working to secure the right to reproductive liberty to ensure that politicians won’t have a say in your reproductive rights,” Hardy said. 

Senator Hardy offered attendees stickers, pins, bags and posters with the slogan “Say Yes to Article 22.” 

“This amendment was overwhelmingly passed on a tripartisan vote in both houses of the legislature four times. We went through the lengthy process of amending a constitution, now it is time for you to vote,” Hardy said. 

According to Pieciak, reproductive freedom is also an economic justice issue at its fundamental core. 

“Every family in Vermont should make their own decision about the timing of when they choose to start a family and take a break from their professional lives, and we must help them afford the choice of having a family. Reproductive freedom is essential to the fiscal strength of the state,” Pieciak said. 

Clark responded to claims that the amendment is unnecessary because there is already an  independent Vermont statutory protection for abortion as a fundamental right throughout pregnancy in June 2019. 

“The language was drafted by constitutional scholars and medical experts,” Clark said, referring to the amendment. “It was vetted and approved in public hearings. Politics is fickle; it is very easy to change a statute, but as we can see, it is very difficult to amend a constitution, so this proposition is meaningful.” 

According to Mitchell, the impact of the Reproductive Liberty Amendment extends far beyond Vermont’s borders. It sends a message to the rest of the country that “everyone with a uterus is protected by the government,” Mitchell said. 

“No one should be treated like a second-class citizen and no one’s right to bodily autonomy should be stripped from them. Voting for the amendment would send a message to the rest of the country that people care about protecting abortion rights,” Mitchell said.

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Editor’s Note: Maggie Bryan ’25 is an Arts & Culture Editor for The Campus. Senator Ruth Hardy is married to Professor Jason Mittell, faculty advisor for The Campus.