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Vermont Conversation: The “courageous doctor” who helped legalize abortion in Vermont

  • July 5, 2022
Jackson Beeham. Photo courtesy of Jackson Beecham

The Vermont Conversation with David Goodman is a VTDigger podcast that features in-depth interviews on local and national issues with politicians, activists, artists, changemakers and citizens who are making a difference. Listen below, and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify to hear more.

When the US Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade on June 24, it left each state to decide its own abortion laws. Many Republican-led states are reverting to the anti-abortion laws that were on the books before 1973 when Roe legalized abortion.

Vermont legalized abortion a year before Roe. In 1972, the Vermont Supreme Court overturned a 122 year-old law that made it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion, though it was not against the law for someone to have one. In practice, this meant that someone could legally self-abort at their own peril, but a doctor who performed an abortion could be arrested and imprisoned for up to 20 years.

The case that legalized abortion in Vermont featured “Jacqueline R.,” an unmarried server who wanted to end her pregnancy, and an OB/GYN resident at the University of Vermont named Jackson Beecham.

After New York legalized abortion in 1970, Beecham, a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, joined a small group of women’s health advocates in Burlington who were exploring ways to legalize abortion in the Green Mountain State. Attorney Willis “Woody” Higgins, a lawyer for IBM who volunteered to argue the case, advised the group that they needed two plaintiffs: a pregnant person who wanted an abortion and “a courageous doctor.”

The prosecutor they faced was a young state’s attorney, Patrick Leahy, and the landmark case that legalized abortion in Vermont was known as Beecham vs. Leahy.

“I didn’t even think about

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Kentucky attorney general asks state Supreme Court to reinstate abortion ban

  • July 5, 2022

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) asked the state’s Supreme Court on Sunday to reinstate an abortion ban that briefly went into effect following the overturning of Roe v. Wade but was later blocked by a lower court.

kentucky/” data-ylk=”slk:A judge on Thursday had temporarily blocked” class=”link “A judge on Thursday had temporarily blocked the implementation of two state laws, which would effectively ban abortion unless necessary to save the woman’s life, following a challenge from abortion-rights groups arguing that Kentucky’s state constitution protected abortion rights. An appeals court judge later denied a request from Cameron to reinstate the ban.

“We are exhausting every possible avenue to have Kentucky’s Human Life Protection Act and Heartbeat Law reinstated,” Cameron said in a statement. “There is no more important issue than protecting life, and we are urging the state’s highest court to consider our request for emergency relief.”

Cameron’s filings with Kentucky’s Supreme Court argue there is no right to abortion in the state’s constitution and that without an emergency ruling from it, unborn children will suffer immediate and irreparable harm.

Samuel Crankshaw — spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, which represents one of the abortion providers in the suit — praised the appeals court ruling that affirmed blocking the law’s immediate implementation.

“We’re glad to see the Court of Appeals agrees the lower court has taken proper emergency action to protect abortion access,” Crankshaw said in a statement. “This win is temporary, but we won’t back down in the fight to defend Kentuckians’ most basic rights from extremist politicians like Daniel Cameron.”

Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, another plaintiff in the suit, did not immediately return a request for comment.

The US Supreme Court last month upheld a 15-week abortion ban in

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