Democratic attorney general candidates promise to increase abortion protections if elected

Rory Thibault and Charity Clark. Photos by Natalie Williams/VTDigger and Glenn Russell/VTDigger

WINOOSKI — The two Democrats vying to be Vermont’s next attorney general say that, if elected, they will aim to strengthen protections for people who request and provide abortions in the state, now that the States Supreme Court United decided to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Charity Clark and Rory Thibault, who are facing each other in the Aug. 9 primary election, said Monday they believe it is essential Vermonters pass Proposition 5 this fall, which would amend the state’s constitution to ensure sexual and reproductive freedoms.

But the candidates also said they would work with Vermont lawmakers to take additional steps, using existing and possibly new legislation, to make Vermont a “safe haven” for people who choose to have abortions – whether or not these people live in the state.

“We can do more to protect this core value in Vermont,” Clark, who was former attorney general TJ Donovan’s chief of staff, said at a Monday news conference in Winooski. “Without Roe, we must create a supportive infrastructure for people deprived of the human right to control their own bodies.”

Both candidates said the state should ensure that Vermont medical providers who perform abortions are protected from lawsuits by officials in other states where it exists or is about to be. new restrictions on access to abortion. In Vermont, providers and activists are bracing for an expected influx of out-of-state patients long before the Supreme Court’s proposed decision on Roe v. Wade not be disclosed in early May.

Clark specifically called for eliminating the ability of a person from any other state to compel the testimony of a person in Vermont in any criminal or civil action against abortion seekers or providers.

She also said it was necessary to change existing state policy or pass new legislation to allow Vermont law enforcement to refuse to cooperate with outside investigations related to abortion care.

“We really can’t have a situation where we’re violating our own principles to support another state’s claim,” Thibault, who is Washington County’s state attorney, said in an interview Monday.

Across Lake Champlain, New York lawmakers are weighing similar “safe harbor” policies, including a proposal to create an abortion access fund that taxpayers could contribute to, the report reported. New York Times.

In response to a reporter’s question on Monday, Clark said she would support the creation of such a fund in Vermont, noting that her campaign welcomes “all ideas.”

But she said New York is likely more likely than Vermont to be a destination for people seeking out-of-state abortions, given the Empire State’s location and the fact that it has several transport hubs much larger than Vermont.

Both candidates have said they want to make it easier for Vermonters to know where to buy abortion drugs in the state, perhaps by creating a certified list of pharmacies that sell the drugs that have come under the spotlight since the ruling. the High Court on Friday.

Thibault said he would support the creation of a Vermont-based abortifacient drug supply in case Congress, which has broad authority over interstate commerce, tries to ban the drugs from entering states like Vermont.

Clark also said she would institute a “policy of no tolerance” in the attorney general’s office for deception and misinformation about abortion medicine and access to providers, using her power to enforce laws on consumer protection.

Abortion-related content from “less trusted sources” more than doubled on Facebook and Twitter in the week after the High Court ruling was leaked, Fast Company reported last week. Similarly, the magazine writes, abortion providers and advocates have since reported an increase in online misinformation about abortion laws.

Thibault said he will work with the Legislature to develop protections for Vermonters who are out of state — whether to travel, study or work — but need to get health care such as an abortion while in a jurisdiction with more restrictive laws.

For example, he said Vermont could develop a program that would allow Vermont health insurance to cover transportation costs either home or to another nearby state where it would be safer or easier for them to travel. have an abortion.

A number of large US companies have said they will reimburse the transportation costs of employees who travel for abortions.

“We will refer someone out of state, or to an out-of-grid specialist, because they are not available in the area where they are. And it seems to me that we can adapt this modality to protect people, ”said Thibault.

He said the thinking is similar to that outlined Friday in a statement by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who said the Pentagon plans to ensure military members, their families, and civilian employees will be able to access reproductive health care, regardless of where they are stationed in the country.

Still, how the Pentagon will do that remains unclear, Politico reported.

Clark and Thibault are in the running to replace Donovan, who quit June 20 for a job with online gaming company Roblox.

After the High Court’s decision on Friday, Acting Attorney General Joshua Diamond released a statement “reaffirming the office’s commitment to supporting and expanding access to abortion care.”

“The Bureau will explore all opportunities to join in multistate actions, amicus briefs, and lawsuits while supporting the passage of Vermont’s Reproductive Liberty Amendment,” the statement read.

Governor Phil Scott last week named Susanne Young, a former assistant attorney general and administrative secretary, to serve in the office beginning July 5 until a new attorney general is sworn in next January.

A spokesperson for the office did not return a request Monday for more information.

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