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Political notes from Free Press staff writers Terri Hallenbeck, Sam Hemingway and Nancy Remsen



The politics of abortion

Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington, announced last week that his Senate Judiciary Committee would not consider legislation addressing crimes against fetuses this year.

The topic came up after an August car crash in which a Bennington woman lost twin six-month fetuses and the discovery that the other driver could not be charged in connection with the loss of the fetuses. Two bills were proposed in response.

As a sign of just how sensitive this issue is, Sears took the unusual step of explaining his decision in a three-page written statement.

He said there was “a great deal of pressure” from several constituents, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood not to take up any of the proposed legislation. At the same time, he said rhetoric from anti-abortion advocates “has, in my view, made any reasonable attempt at compromise more difficult, if not impossible.”

Sears concluded that a thoughtful conversation on the issue is not possible at this time. “I have little choice but to stop further consideration of both bills by the Senate Judiciary Committee,” he wrote.

Credit Sears with explaining himself. Around the Statehouse, this issue is more radioactive than Vermont Yankee.

Patricia Blair, the mother of the twin fetuses, was in the building lobbying for a bill a couple weeks ago. She said she had a meeting scheduled with Sears, but hadn’t met House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg. Somehow, even though the bill she supports has 55 legislative sponsors, none of them had managed to help her stop Lippert in the halls of the Statehouse.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Shap Smith told the Bennington Banner that the House committee’s agenda had been set in November, so it could not fit in this new, complicated issue. What he really means is the majority in the House doesn’t want to take up the bill because agendas have been known to change. Otherwise, no committees would be taking testimony on the tritium leak at Vermont Yankee, which wasn’t revealed until January.

— Terri Hallenbeck


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