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Vermont governor signs shield bills that protect providers who offer medicated abortion

May 10, 2023, 8:52 AM | Updated: 9:02 am

FILE - The Vermont State House stands on Feb. 14, 2023, in Montpelier, Vt. The Vermont Legislature ...

FILE - The Vermont State House stands on Feb. 14, 2023, in Montpelier, Vt. The Vermont Legislature passed reproductive and gender-affirming health care bills Thursday, April 27, with a late addition aimed at protecting access to a medication widely used in abortions even if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration withdraws its approval of the pill, mifepristone. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Lisa Rathke, File)

Vermont’s Republican governor signed abortion and gender affirming shield bills into law Wednesday that include protecting access to a medication widely used in abortions even if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration withdraws its approval of the pill, mifepristone.

The bills protect providers from discipline for providing legally protected reproductive and gender affirming health care services. Vermont is the first state to protect access to medication abortion in a shield law, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which describes itself as a research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights.

“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,” Republican Gov. Phil Scott said in a statement.

In the identical bills passed by the House and Senate, “reproductive health care services” includes “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.”

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court preserved women’s access to the drug, rejecting lower-court restrictions while a lawsuit continues. The justices granted emergency requests from the Biden administration and New York-based Danco Laboratories, maker of mifepristone, which are appealing a Texas lower court ruling that would roll back FDA approval of mifepristone.

“Unfortunately, we can’t say how these legal protections will actually play out based on what happens in the Fifth Circuit Court, and likely appeals to that decision no matter what happens,” said Isabel Guarnieri, of the Guttmacher Institute, by email. “All we know is that there’s going to be a ton of chaos and confusion.”

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Rathke reported from Marshfield, Vermont.

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Vermont governor signs shield bills that protect providers who offer medicated abortion