Vermont’s GOP Governor Shock: Protects Trans Care, Abortion Rights
Author: Trudy Ring
Vermont’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, is going against his party by protecting access to gender-affirming care and abortion instead of restricting or banning the procedures.
Without much fanfare, this month Scott signed two bills into law that safeguard access to this care. House Bill 89 and Senate Bill 37 offer “the most comprehensive protections to date” for both gender-affirming care and abortion, according to GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, a legal nonprofit based in New England.
“Access to reproductive health care services and gender-affirming health care services is a legal right in this State,” reads HB 89. “Interference with legally protected health care activity, whether or not under the color of law, is against the public policy of this State.” That includes civil suits and criminal prosecutions from out of state.
“It also provides address confidentiality protections for providers and seekers of reproductive and transgender healthcare and increases penalties for threatening or using force against those providing or obtaining such legally protected care,” says a press release from GLAD.
SB 37 requires insurers to cover gender-affirming care and abortion-related services and protects providers from disciplinary action or increased malpractice premiums.
“Today, we reaffirm once again that Vermont stands on the side of privacy, personal autonomy and reproductive liberty, and that providers are free to practice without fear,” said a statement issued by Scott when he signed the bills May 10.
Scott, who is in his third term as governor of what is perhaps the nation’s most liberal state, has been described as socially progressive and fiscally conservative. The Democratic Party controls both chambers of the Vermont legislature, and Scott has fought with legislative leaders over moves he considers too costly, such as mandating paid family leave, but he has generally been aligned with the Democrats on basic rights as well as on gun control and combating climate change. “We share broad goals and values,” Vermont House Speaker Jill Krowinski told The Atlantic in 2021.
Scott refused to vote for Donald Trump for president in either 2016 or 2020. He wrote in Jim Douglas, a former Vermont governor, in 2016, and he voted for Joe Biden in 2020, he told local reporters at the time.
LGBTQ+ leaders praised his actions on trans health care and abortion rights. “The dangerous attacks on LGBTQ+ people across the U.S. — particularly transgender people — demand action by all who are committed to freedom and human rights. Vermont has answered that call. While extremist legislators in some states are denying science and rushing to ban evidence-based medical care, the Vermont legislature and Governor Scott have enacted comprehensive protections for transgender people and their healthcare providers and set a model for other states to follow,” Polly Crozier, GLAD’s director of family advocacy, said in the press release.
She also lauded the sponsors of HB 89, Reps. Kate Donnally, Martin LaLonde, and Taylor Small, and of SB 37, Sens. Virginia Lyons, Ruth Hardy, Alison Clarkson, and Kesha Ram Hinsdale.
“Inclusion and equality are core Vermont values, and this legislation demonstrates once again our deep commitment to protecting and affirming LGBTQIA people,” Brenda Churchill, a member of the LGBTQIA Alliance of Vermont Liaison Team, said in the release. “In the face of escalating bans on essential healthcare for transgender people across the country, our state is doing everything in its power to ensure that care remains protected here.”
“Extremist attacks on the LGBTQIA community are taking a terrible toll, particularly on LGBTQIA young people, and today Vermont is sending a clear message that we proudly and strongly support our LGBTQIA family,” added Keith Goslant, LGBTQIA Alliance of Vermont chair.
Twenty states have banned or restricted abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, and nearly that many have banned most or all gender-affirming care for trans youth.
Besides Vermont, nine states have passed laws or issued executive orders protecting access to health care for transgender people, and bills are currently pending in seven other states, according to GLAD. Scott is the second Republican governor to sign legislation protecting access to this care; Charlie Baker, then governor of Massachusetts, signed such a bill last year.
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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Trudy Ring