GOP Vermont Gov. Scott signs two Democratic bills that legally protect 'gender-affirming and reproductive health care'

May 12, 2023
Ben Marquis

Every once in a while, conservatives are reminded that not every elected politician with an (R) behind their name shares the same sort of cultural beliefs and values, and that was made astonishingly clear on Wednesday by Republican Vermont Gov. Phil Scott.

Gov. Scott signed into law a pair of Democrat-sponsored "shield" bills that would explicitly protect the provision of medically-induced abortions and "gender-affirming care," such as hormone treatments, puberty blockers, and sex-change operations, according to Breitbart.

In a one-sentence statement to announce the signing of the twin bills, Scott said, "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."

State will offer legal protections for "gender-affirming and reproductive health care"

The Hill reported that the two pieces of legislation signed into law on Wednesday by Gov. Scott were heralded as victories by pro-abortion and pro-LGBTQ advocacy groups.

H. 89, which was introduced in January by Vermont's sole openly transgender legislator along with other Democratic lawmakers, specifically provides legal protections to access to "gender-affirming and reproductive health care" procedures in the state.

The measure, which will take effect in September, declares, "Interference with legally protected healthcare activity, whether or not under the color of law, is against the public policy of this State."

That legislation also includes legal protections for both individuals and doctors against any sort of civil or criminal actions in other states for services rendered in Vermont.

The companion bill, S. 37, which will also take effect in September, includes a requirement for health insurers doing business in Vermont to provide coverage for abortions and transgender care, as well as protects doctors who administer such services from facing any sort of disciplinary measures or heightened medical malpractice insurance premiums.

It was further noted by The Hill that Gov. Scott isn't the first Republican governor to, for all intents and purposes, betray his conservative constituents, as former Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker garnered that particularly dubious honor when he signed similar legislation into law last year.

The legislation specifically protects controversial abortion medication

The Associated Press reported that the two bills signed on Wednesday by Vermont Gov. Scott appear to be the first ever to explicitly provide protection for the administration and use of the so-called abortion pill, mifepristone, even if authorization for its use is eventually withdrawn by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

The bills state that "medication that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for termination of a pregnancy as of January 1, 2023, regardless of the medication’s current FDA approval status" are included under the state's legal protections for "reproductive health care services."

That language was almost certainly added in response to a ruling earlier this year from a federal judge in Texas that declared the FDA's approval of mifepristone decades ago to have been unlawful. That ruling has since been stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court and is currently pending further proceedings in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that are scheduled for May 17.

Of course, it remains to be seen how that case will play out going forward and whether the abortion drug will retain its prior approval or be ordered off the market by the FDA if it loses its appeal.

That said, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law who specializes in abortion laws, Greer Donley, told the AP that states would not be allowed to make use of drugs that are prohibited or unapproved by the federal government, though he acknowledged that it was unlikely that the federal government -- at least under the current administration -- would actually take any enforcement action against states if they chose to do so in this particular case.

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