MONTPELIER — The House and Senate approved resolutions Tuesday celebrating the 44th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision and Planned Parenthood’s 52 years of existence.
The resolution was approved in the Senate on a unanimous voice vote — meaning no senators expressed opposition. In the House, the resolution was approved on a 103 to 31 roll call vote.
The resolution “urges Congress and other state legislatures to preserve the rights protected in Roe v. Wade and to preserve access to essential health care services” and “reaffirms the right of every Vermont woman to privacy, autonomy, and safety in making personal decisions regarding reproduction and family planning and the right to continued access to safe and legal abortion.”
Hundreds of Planned Parenthood supporters packed the House chamber Tuesday to show support for the group and the resolution.
But the resolution generated some pointed comments from members of the House. Rutland Republican Rep. Doug Gage voiced his opposition to the resolution, calling it a “perverted celebration of death.”
“This resolution comes up year-after-year. I fail to see any reason for anyone to support a resolution that takes a life,” he said. “When we choose to terminate this innocent life we are making a decision that pits the rights of the infant against the mother. I think we should favor the rights of the unborn child.”
“Isn’t it time to protect the constitutional rights of the most vulnerable — the unborn?” Gage added.
Rep. Warren Van Wyck, R-Ferrisburgh, noted that he took part in the Vermont Right to Life Committee’s recent March for Life as he spoke against the resolution.
“Men really have a role in many cases pressuring women to have an abortion,” he said. “I want to promote the culture of life, the culture of respect for women, who in many cases are forced into this.”
Rep. Thomas Terenzini, R-Rutland, said he opposed the measure because of his Catholic faith.
“My faith tells me that it is wrong to support abortion. Abortion is nothing more than murder,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rep. Kevin “Coach” Christie, D-White River Jct., rose to remind the body that Pope Francis granted priests the ability last November to grant absolution for “the sin” of abortion.
Rep. Linda Myers, R-Essex, voted in favor of the resolution and expressed support for Planned Parenthood. But she chastised the body for offering the measure each year, saying it only serves to “continue and enlarge the rift among members of this body.”
“I am pro-choice and support Planned Parenthood, but I rise today as I did a few years ago to express my disappointment in the year-after-year offering of this resolution. There is nothing this will do to further the state’s support of Planned Parenthood and Roe v. Wade. Those are firmly entrenched,” Myers said.
But the election of President Donald Trump is a strong reason to offer the resolution, said Rep. Valerie Stuart, D-Brattleboro.
“Now that we have a known misogynist who bears the sacred title of president, it is more important than ever to stand up for women’s right to choose,” she said.
Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, voted against the resolution because the issue of abortion “should always be a sobering reflection of our power over life itself.”
“It should never be a cause for celebration. That is why I do not support this resolution,” she said as she explained her vote after the roll call.
Others, like Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D-Putney, spoke strongly in support of the resolution.
“I rise in support of these women’s issues, such as access to abortions and other health services, as a man who knows how essential it is for women to be able to make these important decisions,” he said. “I hope, as we look inside ourselves, that we can support women and not go back to what was before.”
Rep. Johannah Donovan, D-Burlington, said she is a Catholic mother of six who supports the resolution “because it’s the right thing to do.”
“Before access to legal abortion happened, women especial lower income women had to risk dangerous procedures,” she said.