On November 2, 2022

‘Roe-vember’

Prop. 5: Liberty and dignity, word for word

By Liz DiMarco Weinmann

Editor’s note: Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA, is principal and owner of Liz DiMarco Weinmann Consulting, L3C, based in Rutland, serving charitable and educational institutions. 

As the deadline for voting in the midterm elections is less than a week away, countless women are sharing very personal — and until recently, private — stories, in living rooms, coffee shops and restaurants around the country, including throughout the Killington-Rutland region.

Some recount how ectopic pregnancies threatened their very lives. Others talk about being raped by trusted caretakers and being grateful they were not forced to carry their assailant’s baby to term. Others speak of abuse by domestic partners who, in addition to their other egregious acts, prohibit birth control of any kind.

It’s no wonder many women are referring to this month as “Roe-vember” and urging everyone they know to get out and vote “yes” for Article 22, Proposal 5. If you haven’t yet voted, grab your ballot and pay very careful attention to the words “personal reproductive autonomy,” “liberty,” and “dignity.” These are rights most adults take for granted, but which may vanish for Vermont women of child-bearing age if Article 22, Proposal 5 is defeated.

Article 22, Proposal 5, now on the Vermont ballot, is just one sentence, but it must be read verbatim to be understood completely, in order to protect the liberty and dignity of Vermont women: “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.”

Liberty and dignity are rights we all expect as Americans, so it is galling that anti-choice women and men alike are spouting rhetoric about “moral imperatives,” without any moral consideration for the sacred value of a woman’s own life, and her right to choose how to live that life.

It is especially unnerving to see some of the anti-choice rhetoric being spewed by men, especially those who refuse to acknowledge their own responsibility in the act of procreation itself. Like the men portrayed in the terrifying stories of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” they are proclaiming themselves the supreme deciders of who should be required to bear children, who should be accorded liberty and dignity, and who should be denied.

Women who are economically disadvantaged, for whatever reason, have even more at stake. A study done just three years ago indicated that food insecurity is highest in poverty-level families where one partner insists on strict religious rules that prohibit birth control of any kind. If anyone perceives food insecurity and homelessness are not threats in Vermont, then even a cursory look at statistics published by the Vermont Food Bank, or Hunger Free Vermont, or the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness, will enlighten them. How is it moral to bring even more children into a world where they could go to bed hungry, malnourished, or homeless?

As many so-called pro-life commentators do not in fact possess experience in being a woman or having the body of a woman, I’ll cite my own: As a moral Catholic woman who attended Catholic schools and early in my career also taught in them. As a loving wife whose doctors advised that even becoming pregnant, let alone carrying a baby to term, would have been a danger to my physical health.

To be clear, my husband was, and remains, fully supportive of the decisions we made when I was still in my child-bearing years four decades ago. Because, at the end of the day, it was my own health that was at risk, my own body that would have borne a child to term, my own well-being that was being threatened.

The person closest to me in my whole life would not dream of interfering with my right to liberty, dignity, and protecting my health in deciding not to become pregnant, yet countless state and federal legislators have no qualms about dictating such decisions. It is beyond infuriating. It is dehumanizing – to all the women going forward who will not have the same rights women of my generation had.

Childless by choice, both my husband and I have been fulfilled in our four decades of marriage, which has included mentoring young people throughout our careers, many of whom still consult us for advice. We have shed tears of joy at their weddings. We proudly display photos of their growing families. At their parents’ funerals, we have grieved alongside them. That we are not their actual parents does not make us any less loving, any less moral, or any less nurturing.

Given the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, then all the pontificating about separation of church and state by Catholic Supreme Court justices was for nothing. The zealots will have succeeded in fusing the lines between those entities for generations to come. And, while there has been a rise in vasectomies since Dobbs, they too would be banned if the zealots succeed in banning contraception altogether.

As a result, more women will risk their lives to have reproductive choice, and economically disadvantaged women will be more adversely affected. More women will need to leave the workforce, fueling unnecessary economic and financial hardships for families and employers alike. Jobs now held by women who are competent, confident, and collaborative will be more available to men – many of whom will be relieved that there will be less competition. More women will again become financially dependent on husbands, or on other male partners who have more financial power — even if those partners are abusers.

If that doesn’t sound just like the horrific dystopia depicted in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” I don’t know what does. Get out there and vote — for liberty, for dignity, for personal reproductive autonomy.

For more information, visit: plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-northern-new-england; acluvt.org/en/campaigns/reproductive-liberty-amendment-proposal-5-article-22; vtfoodbank.org; hungerfreevt.org; helpingtohousevt.org.

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