Commentary, Opinion

A giant leap backward

By Steph Yu

Editor’s note: Steph Yu is the deputy director of Public Assets Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit organization based in Montpelier.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has devastating effects on anyone who can get pregnant. Plain and simple, this ruling is a clear effort to assert control over women’s bodies and therefore our agency, our autonomy and our freedom.

Vermont has codified the right to reproductive health care in statute and will vote on a constitutional amendment to reinforce that in November. The governor issued a statement in support of that right and the amendment. But none of that means that Vermonters are shielded from the consequences of this decision.

Many have made the case that this ruling is wrong, that it sets us back 50 years, and it subjugates those who can get pregnant to the whims of the state they live in. Others have pointed out that the history of systemic racism in this country means that Black, Indigenous and other people of color will pay a disproportionate price for this ruling. Low-income people will struggle to access health care that better-off individuals can seek across state lines. And the lack of access to reproductive health care has severe long-term economic consequences for women and their families. These are all true, and yet this is even bigger than any of that.

This is about the human right to determine for ourselves what we can do with our own bodies. A Supreme Court that strips basic human rights from millions of Americans is dangerous for us all. Our friends and loved ones across the country saw their ability to make their own choices about their own bodies vanish overnight.

And it’s about making sure that the voices most impacted by this ruling—families, especially those of color, those forced into low-wage jobs or otherwise struggling, those with limited access to health care—are heard. And if those in power won’t listen, it’s about taking that power and giving it to those who will.

So even if Vermonters approve Proposal 5 in November, we need to be a part of this struggle. The fact is that we need to fight for the basic human rights of everyone in this country. Vermont is not safe from the consequences of this decision, and neither are Vermonters.

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