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Phil Scott signs 'shield bills' to protect abortion providers in Vermont from out-of-state prosecution

Gov. Phil Scott, addressing reporters from a podium at a press conference
Peter Hirschfeld
Vermont Public
Gov. Phil Scott says legislation he signed into law Wednesday puts Vermont "on the side of privacy, personal autonomy and reproductive liberty."

As state legislatures across the United States enact new prohibitions against abortion and gender-affirming medical care, Republican Gov. Phil Scott Wednesday signed two bills that will protect health care providers and their patients from criminal charges filed by prosecutors outside the state of Vermont.

Nineteen states have enacted at least partial bans on abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, and 14 states now restrict gender-affirming care for minors.

Health care organizations in Vermont have made it clear that they’ll offer reproductive and gender-affirming care to patients who need to travel across state lines in order to receive it.

Scott’s signature has cleared the path for two bills that would, according to the Vermont Medical Society, “protect patients who see, and Vermont health care clinicians who provide reproductive services and gender-affirming care.”

“While across the nation, access to evidence-based health care is being restricted by the whims of ideologically driven judges and lawmakers without medical or scientific training, S.37 and H.89 put into Vermont law legal protections for accessing or providing evidence-based medical care, including medication abortion,” said Jessa Barnard, executive director of the Vermont Medical Society.

Lawmakers included a provision last month that adds protections for medication used to end pregnancies, after a federal judge in Texas suspended FDA approval of the abortion pill called mifepristone.

Scott issued a written statement Wednesday after signing the legislation.

“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,” he said.

The bills would protect local health care providers from out-of-state subpoenas and summons, so long as the case involves health care activities that are legally protected in Vermont. It would also prevent the extradition of abortion providers to states where the practice is outlawed.

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The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.