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Gov. Scott signs H.57
Scott signs H.57, protecting abortion rights

MONTPELIER — The unrestricted right of Vermont’s women to access abortion services was secured Monday evening with the stroke of Gov. Phil Scott’s pen.

“Currently, Vermont does not restrict the right to abortion,” the bill reads. “The General Assembly intends this act to safeguard the existing rights to access reproductive health services in Vermont by ensuring those rights are not denied, restricted or infringed by a government entity. ... The State of Vermont recognizes the fundamental right of every individual who becomes pregnant to choose to carry a pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child or to have an abortion.”

“Like many Vermonters, I have consistently supported a woman’s right to choose, which is why today I signed H.57 into law,” Scott said in a statement. “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.”

“Given what’s happening at a national level, I think there’s a lot of astonishment and outrage at the lengths the opposition will go to take away rights of people who can get pregnant,” said Lucy Leriche, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood in Vermont. “What we have seen is an incredible outpouring of support from advocacy organizations, Vermonters and the Legislature.”

The Vermont Right to Life Committee released a statement accusing Scott of harming Vermont’s women and girls by signing the “anti-life” bill.

“H.57 goes beyond Roe v. Wade and may well be the most radical anti-life law in the nation,” Sharon Toborg, policy analyst for Vermont Right to Life, said in the statement.

Mary Beerworth, executive director of the Vermont Right to Life committee, maintained the bill would enable abortion at any stage in a pregnancy. Sen. Brian Collamore, R-Rutland said he shared those concerns when he voted against H.57.

“There is no provision for restricting the time limit on abortion — the way it’s written, a woman could be in her ninth month, she could still have an abortion,” Collamore said.

But Leriche said the frequency of late-term abortions claimed by some was misinformation.

“Terminations late in pregnancy are very rare, less than 1% — pregnancies that are wanted and are tragic anomalies,” Leriche said.

According to the Vermont Medical Society, in 2016, 98.9% of abortions happened at 20 weeks of gestation or earlier, and almost 70% of those terminations were at less than nine weeks. Terminations 21 weeks or later were listed as making up 1% of terminations.

“’Late-term’ abortion is a social construct introduced to create an image of an elective abortion that happens closer to 8-9 months, which does not happen and is not a term that is used medically,” according to a statement released by the Vermont Medical Society. “There are no abortion services available for patients seeking termination past 22 weeks in Vermont, except in very rare cases where there are significant threats to maternal or fetal health.”

Beerworth warned that clinics allowed to operate “unregulated” opens the door for illegal clinics to open. She cited the case of Kermit Gosnell, who operated an illegal practice in Philadelphia and was charged with eight counts of murder after his practice was raided in 2010.

“Kermit Gosnell ran a criminal enterprise, not a health care facility,” Leriche said. “The notion that these criminals are going to come in and set up shop here in Vermont, no regulations would allow for that to happen. ... Every health care provider has a medical license. This allegation that abortion health care centers aren’t regulated is false.

Abortion is health care, Leriche said, and remains one of the safest health care procedures that exist conducted by a trained medical professional, with less than 1% resulting in complications.

Collamore said he was opposed to the lack of parental consent required for someone underage to access abortion care.

“A girl could be as young as 13 or 14 years old ... and there’s no parental notification,” Collamore said.

Leriche said requiring parental consent could put the life of the pregnant person in danger if they refused to allow the termination and forced the child to carry the pregnancy to term.

“We support, very strongly, this idea that if this person is old enough to get pregnant, they’re old enough to decide what they want to do with their body,” Leriche said.

“Parents need to find out what’s happening with their daughter,” Beerworth said. “There is never a moment when a woman is under so much pressure.”

But rather than seeking abortion, Beerworth said more efforts ought to be allocated to aiding a pregnant person in the event of an unplanned pregnancy.

“Why aren’t colleges making it easier for women to have children? We stepped into this discussion and felt this was an opportunity to improve the services to women,” Beerworth said.

An opinion, Leriche said, that dissolved the notion of choice.

“(It) fundamentally disregards what the patient wants for herself and whether she wants to be pregnant and wants to be a parent,” Leriche said.

Contrary to Beerworth’s claims that abortion rates are increasing, Vermont Department of Health Communications Officer Ben Truman confirmed that 1,298 abortions were performed in the state in 2016, falling to 1,203 in 2017.

If nothing else, Beerworth said the law would only serve to strengthen a “business” that she alleged financially profited from providing abortion care and funneled money to the state government.

“We refer to them as the fourth branch of government in Vermont,” Beerworth said. “They have an incredible ability to affect an election. ... I think (Scott) is afraid to go against them.”

Leriche called the notion of abortion care providers making a profit “offensive.”

“We have a 501c4 and an independent expenditure pack,” Leriche said. “... Abortion services are probably one of the smallest pieces of what we do. Six percent of our patients come for abortion. The vast majority are for contraception services.”

In its statement, the Vermont Medical Society thanked Scott signing the bill into law.

“We thank the thousands of Vermonters who spoke out in support of H.57, the countless individuals who came forward to share their personal stories, all of the legislators who worked to see this critical legislation through, and Gov. Scott for signing it into law,” said James Duff Lyall, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont. “Thanks to them, the people of this state will continue to have the freedom to define their own path without government interference or intrusion into their private decisions.”

Going forward, Jessa Barnard, executive director of the Vermont Medical Society, said the proposed restriction of Title X funding — federal grant money for reproductive health care facilities — is being fought by a coalition of states around the nation in an effort to keep affordable health care available.

“Title X federal funding for contraceptive care and screenings does not fund abortions,” Barnard said. “It could affect Vermont reproductive services for STI screenings, breast cancer screenings, cervical cancer screenings.”

katelyn.barcellos @rutlandherald.com


Jpkuckens / Josh Kuckens / Staff Photo  

Class Dismissed

Cosmetology students process into the Barre Auditorium on Tuesday evening during the CVCC Awards Night & Celebration of Program Completers.


Local
24-hour waiting period
Scott vetoes gun purchase waiting periods

MONTPELIER — A year after he signed the most sweeping gun legislation in Vermont’s history, Gov. Phil Scott decided not to take it a step further.

The governor on Monday vetoed S.169, a bill introduced by the Senate Judiciary Committee that would have created a 24-hour waiting period for handgun purchases.

The bill was frequently touted as a suicide-prevention measure. While gun control organizations like Giffords — the national group started by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — pointed at studies broadly linking tighter gun control laws to decreases in suicide, the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs (VFSC) pointed out that only 6% of suicides in Vermont involve guns, and almost all of those guns had been owned for more than 24 hours.

Even so, VFSC president Chris Bradley said the organization was involved in a project distributing literature to gun shop owners on how to spot and deal with customers at risk of suicide.

“Gun shop owners don’t want to sell to people who are going to kill themselves,” he said on Tuesday. “Owners don’t want that on their conscience.”

Ultimately, Bradley said, the bill would have violated the rights of Vermont gun-buyers to no appreciable benefit.

“I believe it is well-intentioned,” he said. “I believe it is by people who are wishfully thinking this is a step in the right direction.”

Sen. Brian Collamore, R-Rutland County, who voted against the bill, said he might have supported it if he’d been convinced it would have made a difference with suicides, but that he saw no such evidence.

“I don’t know how you do that,” he said. “I voted against S.55 last year, too. I feel, have felt for a while, that responsible Vermonters have a right to buy guns, have guns. ... I guess in the end, I’m a second amendment advocate. I’ve voted that way and that’s the way I feel.”

The governor’s letter notifying the Legislature of the veto noted the gun-control measure he approved last year.

“With these measures in place, we must now prioritize strategies that address the underlying causes of violence and suicide,” Scott wrote. “I do not believe S.169 addresses these areas. Moving forward, I ask the Legislature to work with me to strengthen our mental health system, reduce adverse childhood experiences, combat addiction, and provide every Vermonter with hope and economic opportunity.”

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson said the Legislature was doing all that, noting that they sent the governor a budget with increased mental health funding that he initially vetoed before allowing it to take effect without his signature. She said if the governor wishes to spend more still on mental health, the Legislature will oblige.

“We’ve been on that path and I’m happy to continue on that path,” she said.

Johnson said an override was unlikely, given that numerous House Democrats broke ranks and the bill passed by a vote of 82-58.

“We’ll have some conversations, but it wasn’t real close to the 100 to begin with,” she said. “I think we’ll continue to have conversations on how to reduce suicides.”

gordon.dritschilo @rutlandherald.com


Local
Chainsaw class for women lauded

WOODBURY – In an era of equality, a local woman is leveling the playing field when it comes to one of the more macho traditions – wielding a chain saw.

Katherine Cole Scoville quickly piqued the interest of locals when she advertised a Chainsaw Class for Woman on the Calais Front Porch Forum website recently. Four women signed up for her class in April and this weekend’s class is fully booked. Her next class will be June 29-30. There is no charge for the two-day course at the Woodbury Community Room and at her home in Woodbury.

Scoville, by all accounts, is a capable, resourceful women who enjoys being energetic and engaged in both her professional and personal life. She works part-time as a server at the Hardwick Street Café at the Highland Center for the Arts in Greensboro; as a department buyer at the Buffalo Mountain Co-op in Hardwick; and as a bus driver with Wild Cat Busing in Hardwick. She is the single mother of two children, Karria, 18, Cyrus, 14 — both of whom can also use a chainsaw, she said.

Scoville bases her skills as a teacher of chainsaw lessons on years of experience.

“I took forestry in high school, my senior year, and learned how to operate a chainsaw, and after that I was able to use a chainsaw in a safer manner than most people who teach themselves or learn from a friend or relative,” Scoville said. "So, I started cutting my own for wood when I was in my 20s and have always used a chainsaw since."

“I realized there was a real lack of education on how to use a chainsaw, and people don’t know where to learn about using a chainsaw. Women, in particular, feel very fearful of chainsaws, so when women found out that I cut my own wood, they were very intrigued. I came to realize that it’s kind of a unique thing and that I’m a natural teacher – I really enjoy teaching people things,” she said.

Scoville spent the winter working on putting a plan together for class and received a prompt response when she reached out the community for students.

Scoville said the class is deliberately for women only to allow them to feel comfortable without having to be competitive with men.

“It’s not co-ed because women feel more comfortable when men aren’t around, as far as revealing their insecurities and so that we can support each other,” Scoville said.

Scoville has also brought some theatrics and choreography to her lessons that have both enamored and amused her students.

“I show up to the class dressed in a completely inappropriate outfit,” Scoville said. “It’s sort of classy, kind of sexy, that totally throws people, where people might say, ‘What? Who is this person?’"

“I start out by wearing high heels, a slinky dress, make-up and jewelry — I look like I’m going out to dinner with someone. When people walk in and see me, people wonder, ‘Am I in the right place?’ Last week, for example, I was wearing a slinky dress, and I ask them, ‘What do I need?’ Someone will say, ‘For one, you need to change into some appropriate boots and put on some chaps.'"

“So, I change into boots and put the chaps on over my dress, and I ask, ‘Am I ready?’ The other people in the class are laughing about it, but then they’ll say I need to put on some pants, and I need hearing and eye protection, and gloves. We go through everything piece of it and why it’s necessary,” she added.

Scoville said the her camped-up class routine is a light-hearted poke at male machismo but also to celebrate that women can perform challenging tasks.

“It’s absolutely not to emasculate men in any way, absolutely not,” Scoville said. “That’s a point I like to remind these women of, that we’re not men. They have upper-body strength that we don’t have. They can do a lot physically that we can’t do. We need to be conscious of that and take breaks, and don’t overdo it. It’s not a race.

“In talking with men, I’ve learned that they would like to learn more, too. When I’m talking to men, they don’t even know what they’re talking about, sometimes,” she added.

Scoville’s lessons consist of a two-hour morning class at the Woodbury Community Room to learn the basic mechanics of a chainsaw and necessary safety clothing and equipment, followed by a two-hour class on handling the chainsaw and cutting wood at Scoville’s nearby home. The second day of classes is a two-hour session on basic maintenance of the chainsaw and more wood-cutting.

Scoville prides herself on never being injured using a chainsaw.

“I’ve a pretty good track record,” Scoville said. “I’ve only thrown a chain once and I didn’t get hurt. It just smacked my leg, but I had chaps on, so it didn’t matter.”

Scoville has received rave reviews from her students.

“For the women who never cut before it was clear this was confidence building and empowering,” said Sabina Carinci, who lives in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, but has a second home in Marshfield. “Various techniques were practiced with various saws. There was always an emphasis on safety throughout. I cannot recommend her class enough.”

Kim McKee, of Calais, added: “I really wanted to be able to help with firewood and hopefully get to help with some trail work, so learning how to use a chainsaw is pretty key for that. The thought of taking the class with other women and a woman instructor was really exciting for me. It was a really supportive environment. Since I took it, I’ve been cutting every weekend to stay in practice.

There is no charge for the course, but participants can share a “gift of appreciation.”

For more information, email Scoville at kcole5678@gmail.com.


Local
Select Board pumps brakes on ATV ordinance

WILLIAMSTOWN — A proposal to open up portions of 20 town roads for use by all-terrain vehicles hit a speed bump during a crowded Select Board meeting Monday night.

Nearly 100 people filled the library at Williamstown Middle and High School — more than attended town meeting in March. The fate of an ordinance proposed in April and backed by members of a fledgling ATV club is suddenly in doubt and will be the subject of continued debate by a yet-to-be-appointed committee.

Board members Francis Covey and Chris Wade were designated to serve on that committee, which, Chairman Matthew Rouleau said, should include representatives of the BillTown Wheelers and residents who objected to the ordinance proposed by the club.

Both sides were well-represented during a 90-minute public hearing — a level of community engagement Rouleau recently lamented was missing from earlier meetings.

“I got my wish,” Rouleau said, surveying a much larger and more diverse audience than the one that attended last month’s board meeting or the one when the idea was first floated in April.

Rouleau stressed at the outset that the board had not taken any formal action with respect to the requested ordinance, though members have been cautiously supportive of the concept.

“The decision hasn’t been made,” he said, setting the stage for a back-and-forth that never quite got nasty despite the starkly different perspectives held by those in attendance.

The club’s members depicted the proposed ordinance as a way to accommodate wholesome family fun by linking Williamstown with trails in neighboring Washington, Orange, Topsham and beyond. Traffic, they said, would flow both ways — a boon for some Williamstown businesses. They spoke of trails that would be well-maintained and rigorously policed, and suggested seasonal use by ATVs would be innocuous.

Those rosy assertions were challenged by residents who complained they only recently learned of the proposal, hadn’t been fully briefed on the ordinance, or had an opportunity to review the map that shows which portions of the roads might be opened for ATV use.

Some were more skeptical than others and several feared the idea could quickly devolve into neighborhood nuisances, or worse.

Boyce Road resident Shaun Boyce said many of the people he’d spoken with were just getting up to speed. Many, he said, own ATVs, but worried that opening portions of some Class 3 and 4 roads for their use could lead to an increase in roadside litter, traffic and noise.

“They understand ATV riders, they just don’t want to see more traffic on the roads that they live on,” Boyce said.

Washington Road resident Suzanne LaFleche was one of them. LaFleche said she moved to the “edge of town” 30 years ago for a reason that she feared was suddenly in jeopardy.

“I see this as taking away peace and quiet.” LaFleche said. “You can’t get that back.”

Boyce Road resident Richard Flies agreed.

“This is a quality of life issue for many Williamstown residents,” Flies said, urging the board to seriously ponder what it was being asked to do.

“Is this something you really want to do to this town?” he asked.

The answer for many — including at least a couple who don’t live in Williamstown — was “yes.”

“This is a good activity,” Rood Pond Road resident Duncan Cone said, pointing to what he described as success stories in some nearby communities and urging the board to act on the ordinance.

Lindsey Contois was among the more vocal proponents of the ordinance. She said it could be properly enforced and believed it would be beneficial to the town.

“The community is going to be closer for this,” she said, despite the deep divide among those in the room at the time.

Garden Street resident Luanna Putney pushed back at what she perceived was the negative way ATV owners were being portrayed.

“Everybody’s making it sound like everybody who has an ATV (are) nothing but hoodlums and thugs and alcoholics,” Putney said. “You can laugh, but look at these men and women. These are hardworking men and women who paid thousands of dollars for four-wheelers and ATVs.

“These are our neighbors,” she added. “These are our friends.

On that Putney and Washington Road resident Victoria Heft agreed.

However, Heft who recounted living in Danville when a similar ordinance was passed several years ago, leading to a large increase in out-of-state traffic, incessant noise no one anticipated, a problem with trash, privacy issues, concerns about speeding and congestion.

“Everybody got ripping mad at each other,” she said. “Neighbors were furious at neighbors. Everybody was mad at the Select Board and the town got all worked up and finally they decided ‘We don’t want to deal with this anymore. This is not benefiting us.’”

The solution in Danville — one Heft asked the board to consider — involved limiting ATV use of local roads to town residents and those who own property in the community.

“I think there would be a different discussion happening here if you guys were saying: ‘We want just the club to be able to ride on all these roads,’” she said. “You guys are our neighbors. That would make a big difference.”

Danny Hale, executive director of the Vermont ATV Sportsman’s Association, acknowledged Danville wasn’t “a perfect situation,” but said the problems there weren’t resolved by adopting an ordinance that barred VASA from using its resources to manage the trail network and invest in enforcement.

“It’s not better there now, it’s worse there now,” he said. “They’re going backwards by the day in Danville.”

Hale urged the Williamstown board not to embrace a plan that would leverage VASA’s resources and provide crucial management where none now exists.

“This is not going to go away if you say ‘no,’” he said. “The same thing is going to occur. All of these people own ATVs, they’re going to ride them so why don’t we put some management parameters around it?”

Dorothy Milne, of Lotus Lake Camp, said she was troubled that Winchester Hill Road was included on the list. The Class 4 road bisects the Lotus Lake property and is regularly used by campers and staff on foot and on horseback.

“The concerns for us are very much about safety of our children and our animals going up and down that road,” she said, prompting some to suggest they shouldn’t be in the road in the first place.

Rama Schneider said at the start he was “skeptical” but “convince-able,” while acknowledging he would feel far more comfortable if the board test drove the ATV ordinance to see how it worked.

He, and others, expressed optimism a “middle ground” could be be reached, but said Heft’s concern about an influx of ATV enthusiasts from out of town and out of state was worthy of consideration.

“We’re talking about something that goes way beyond Williamstown,” he said. “We’re inviting in the world.”

Not yet, though that was a source of frustration for the club’s president, Travis Pierce, who headed into the meeting expecting he’d leave with an answer instead of a request he designate members to serve on a committee.

“Can you just give us a chance?” Pierce asked. “Let us prove to you that we’re not bad people.”

No one suggested they were, but when it was clear the board wasn’t ready to adopt the ordinance, Pierce asked for an explanation.

“Wasn’t that the whole point of this meeting … so you guys could hear from the people?” he asked.

“What we’ve heard is they need to hear more,” Rouleau replied.

The board appointed Covey and Wade to serve on the committee and agreed to recruit members from both sides to work on what some suggested could be an abbreviated list of roads and maybe a different schedule than the 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. reflected in the proposed ordinance.

david.delcore @timesargus.com


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Saturday

Under Milk Wood

Staged Reading. Dylan Thomas’ “play for voices,” follows the villagers of Llareggub through a day in the life of their small town. $10, Seniors 20% off, students $5, 7:30-10:30 p.m. Highland Center for the Arts, 2875 Hardwick St., Greensboro, boxoffice@highlandartsvt.org, 802-533-2000.