Republican governor signs bill protecting abortion rights

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont's Republican governor has signed a bill passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature that protects women's access to abortion amid proponents' concerns that the U.S. Supreme Court could review Roe v. Wade.

After signing the bill in private Monday, Gov. Phil Scott released a written statement saying he has consistently supported a woman's right to choose.

"This legislation affirms what is already allowable in Vermont - protecting reproductive rights and ensuring those decisions remain between a woman and her health care provider," he said in a written statement. "I know this issue can be polarizing, so I appreciate the respectful tone and civility from all sides throughout this discussion."

Some Democrat-led states are seeking to preserve abortion rights in state law, while some Republican-led states have placed restrictions on abortion.

The Vermont measure is separate from a proposal to amend the state constitution to guarantee a woman's right to an abortion. That proposed constitutional amendment has to be passed again by the Legislature elected in 2020 and then, if approved a second time, be approved by voters in a statewide referendum that would be held in 2022.

Supporters say the law signed this week will provide immediate protections for women seeking abortions, while the longer-term amendment proposal would make abortion access a fundamental right in Vermont.

Proponents say both measures are needed in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturns the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide.

"Each and every day we see proof that abortion rights are on the line, and we cannot risk the threats to abortion access that we're anticipating at the U.S. Supreme Court," said Meagan Gallagher, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, who said health care is "personal, not political" for the organization's patients.

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