Conflicts of interest with Planned Parenthood in Vermont
Vermont's attorney general, T.J. Donovan, has demanded more than $7,000 for members of the public to view his office's correspondence with Planned Parenthood relating to the passage in Vermont of one of the most extremist abortion "protection" laws in the nation. H. 57 permits abortions up until the moment of birth without restriction.
Vermont's attorney general recently announced his office's involvement in a Missouri lawsuit regarding abortion:
"Abortion is legal and constitutional," said Attorney General Donovan. "The passage of these laws is a blatant attempt to undermine Roe v. Wade. We will continue to stand with Planned Parenthood."
Many Vermonters are concerned that their attorney general is standing much too closely with Planned Parenthood. His office charges citizens an enormous sum to determine whether he has violated campaign finance laws or ethics rules but then invests legal resources of those same taxpayers to poke his overly zealous nose into Missouri's legal matters on PP's behalf.
A parallel records request was submitted to Vermont governor Phil Scott, to which his office replied that there was "a voluminous amount of records responsive to [the] request." A mere 40 unimportant emails, letters, and press releases were subsequently provided.
His records officer provided this murky disclaimer:
Certain records have been redacted or withheld to the extent they are exempt from disclosure under I V.S.A. $ 317(c)(a) (attorney client and executive privileges), including communications among senior members of Governor Scott's office and senior members of Governor Scott's office and the Agency of Human Services which reflect the Governor's consultative and decision-making processes and communications strategy as those relate to the decision to opt out of Title X funding that would limit family planning services.
Many Vermonters were shocked when their governor, a nominal Republican, signed this extremist abortion bill. Many had pleaded that he at least refuse to sign it. Instead, he doubled down for Planned Parenthood, signed it with a big smile, and publicly announced:
Like many Vermonters, I have consistently supported a woman's right to choose, which is why today I signed H.57 into law. 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[.]
Many wondered whether the governor feared political opposition by Planned Parenthood in a 2020 re-election bid. But there is no way to know by his office's records request response whether the "redacted or withheld" items included damning revelations of a conflict of interest with special interest groups.
The public has zero information as to whether its governor and attorney general have acted with a conflict of interest with Planned Parenthood. In the former, the hurdle of "attorney-client and executive privilege" has been invoked; in the latter, the costs are prohibitive.
Roe v. Wade specifically recognized a "second life" at viability, yet the Vermont A.G. justifies H. 57 as a "protection" of Roe. The U.S. Supreme Court held in Doe v. Bolton that a woman has a right for her doctor to decide whether an abortion is necessary for her health; Governor Scott employs the "doctor-patient privilege" to kill without any such finding. H. 57 ignores Doe's limitation, legalizing a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy at any time for any reason: "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."
On February 18, at a public records forum:
Charity Clark, chief of staff to Attorney General TJ Donovan, said her office is bound by ethical obligations to their clients — state government employees — when making decisions about what records to release in response to requests from Vermont citizens and the press[.] ... "We're required, as lawyers, to have a duty of loyalty," she said[.] ... Secretary of State James Condos quickly shot back. "My only question is, who serves the public?"
The people's attorneys insist that their loyalty is to fellow attorneys and public officials, not voters. That is very much a conflict of interest. H. 57 is perhaps the most permissive abortion law in the world (excepting China) — but voters have no access to the potential conflicts of interest between Planned Parenthood and the two highest officials involved in its passage!
The records request from A.G. Donovan's Office has been pared down in an effort to make it more affordable. But it is plain to see where these leaders' loyalties lie.