A small Iowa city became the first in the state Monday to pass a Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinance that outlaws abortions.
The Willey City Council voted unanimously in favor of the pro-life ordinance, making Willey the first in Iowa and 49th in the United States to protect unborn babies by banning abortions within city limits, said Mark Lee Dickson, founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn initiative.
The Carroll Times Herald reports dozens of local residents applauded the city council after the vote and then prayed for the lives of unborn babies in their community.
Mayor Kristin Nehring said she believes protecting unborn babies’ lives is the right thing to do, according to the report.
“I think that it is good for our community to speak out and do what they think is best and stand up for what is right, and I believe that is what the community did tonight,” Nehring said.
Emily Thams, who lives in the nearby town of Denison, said she found it significant that the council voted just as news broke about a leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
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“I will never forget where I was when I heard of the Supreme Court leak that Roe v. Wade is set to be overturned. Where was I when I heard the news? I was at a council meeting where abortion was being outlawed in Willey, Iowa,” Thams said, Live Action News reports.
The draft Supreme Court ruling is not final, but it has given pro-life advocates hope that states soon may be allowed to protect unborn babies from abortion again. The court is expected to rule on the abortion case this summer.
There is no abortion facility in Willey, but the ordinance will prevent one from opening there. It also will combat the rise of mail-order abortion drugs, which the Biden administration began allowing last year, Dickson said.
“We’re not so much worried about brick-and-mortar abortion facilities as much as we are abortion pill-by-mail and turning the mailbox into an abortion facility,” Dickson told the local news.
The Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinance makes it “unlawful for any person to procure or perform an abortion of any type and at any stage of pregnancy” within city limits. It also prohibits “any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion” and treats abortion-inducing drugs as contraband.
The ACLU of Iowa criticized the Willey City Council in a statement to the Des Moines Register but did not say if it will attempt to challenge the ordinance in court.
“Cities cannot punish women or doctors or other providers for providing or receiving medical services that are clearly legal,” ACLU of Iowa executive director Mark Stringer said. “Whether Iowans are able to access crucial medical services should not be dependent on their zip code.”
The Willey ordinance fines abortionists and those who “aid and abet” in killing unborn babies in violation of the ban, but it specifically exempts the woman from punishment.
Dickson responded, “Despite saying that cities cannot outlaw abortion, it is worth noting that the ACLU of Texas has lost every lawsuit they have filed against Sanctuary Cities For the Unborn as they have challenged the idea and ideas surrounding it.”
In 2021, voters in Lubbock, Texas overwhelmingly approved a Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinance on the ballot, and Planned Parenthood was forced to stop aborting unborn babies there. The abortion chain challenged the ordinance, but a judge threw out its lawsuit later that year. Then, in January, Planned Parenthood decided to drop its lawsuit completely in a major victory for life.
In 2020, the American Civil Liberties Union dropped another lawsuit challenging several other Texas cities’ pro-life ordinances.
A growing grassroots movement is working to protect unborn babies at the local level. To date, 49 cities in Texas, Nebraska, Ohio, Louisiana and Iowa have passed Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinances. However, two cities did repeal theirs: Mason, Ohio and Omaha, Texas.
Other cities and counties also have passed pro-life resolutions, which are statements of support but not enforceable law, that recognize unborn babies’ right to life. In Arkansas, 19 counties and 10 cities and towns have passed pro-life resolutions, according to Family Council of Arkansas. Several North Carolina counties passed pro-life resolutions recently, too.