House Bill 57, co-sponsored by nearly 70 Vermont legislators, has been introduced in the Vermont General Assembly. It states that aborting an unborn child at any time during the pregnancy, up to the moment of birth, is a “fundamental right.”

These words have profound legal significance. A “fundamental right” under our United States and Vermont constitutions means a right that cannot be restricted, absent a “compelling government interest.” Moreover, any restriction on such a right requires “strict scrutiny” by the courts. Restrictions of fundamental rights such as life, liberty, and freedom of speech and assembly have been severely circumscribed by the courts.

Even worse, this bill specifically prohibits a “public entity” from “depriv(ing) a consenting individual of the choice of terminating the individual’s pregnancy.”

Thus, while fundamental rights can be restricted by the government under certain circumstances, such as prohibiting yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, imprisoning an individual who has been found guilty of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, or restricting gun possession by felons, this bill takes away even that limited government power.

On the other hand, the bill provides that the unborn child has no rights whatsoever. It states: “A fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus shall not have independent rights under Vermont law.” The unborn child becomes the legal equivalent of a piece of dust.

Finally, this bill provides that the “right” to an abortion can be enforced by the “injured” party by injunctive relief and an award of attorneys fees.

The effect of this bill would be to enshrine in the law the unrestricted right to kill a child up to the moment of birth for any reason. Abortion for sex selection purposes, for organ harvesting, for medical research or experimentation, or even for eugenics, will all be beyond the reach of the law.

An unborn child, who would be viable outside the womb, can be wantonly killed and mutilated for any reason under this bill. This bill also makes it legal for an aborted child who is born alive to be killed after its birth.

Late-term abortions are ghoulish, cause pain and suffering to the baby, and risk serious health consequences to the mother. They involve injecting massive doses of heart-stopping medication into the baby’s head or chest to kill the child, and then, several days later, removing, sometimes piecemeal, the dead child from the mother’s womb.

In Vermont, animals are protected by criminal statutes prohibiting animal abuse or neglect. Children, likewise, are protected by child protections statutes. This bill provides no protection whatsoever for any child until the moment it is born.

This is the ugly face of progressivism.

Deborah Bucknam is an attorney in St. Johnsbury.

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