Recently, NPR released an article detailing the desire of pro-abortion groups to have more statewide ballot initiatives.[i] It is not particularly surprising given the fact that three pro-abortion ballot initiatives to change state constitutions to recognize a so-called “right” to abortion were passed (California, Michigan, and Vermont) and two pro-life ballot initiatives to change the state constitutions were defeated in Kentucky and Montana. They believe that this has given them a mandate to proceed in other states with a pro-abortion agenda.
However, much of the mainstream media and pro-abortion advocates failed to admit that there were other pro-life ballot initiatives that did pass on November 6, 2022. In fact, nine passed: five in Nebraska and four in Texas. While most of these ballot initiatives were in small towns, two were in mid-sized cities (San Angelo, Texas and Abilene, Texas). Yet no attention was paid to any of these initiatives and extremely little press, other than the local press, paid any attention.
These wins and losses do tell the pro-life movement a couple of things: 1) pro-life ballot initiatives do seem to have a better chance at success at the local level, 2) the pro-abortion movement may not wait for state legislatures or state courts to carve out a so-called “right” to abortion, it appears they may go directly to the ballot box itself, and 3) there is interest in passing local pro-life laws that protect the community from the scourge of abortion. This certainly poses a dilemma for the pro-life movement which has had a problem with statewide ballot initiatives historically. Strategies will have to shift. No doubt, there will always be a national push to ban abortion, by the pro-life movement, this not only is of historical value, since pro-lifers have sought a Human Life Amendment for decades, but is something that is still sorely needed. Even in states that have passed constitutional amendments that recognize a so-called “right” to abortion, pro-life organizations will still push for legislation challenging the interpretation of that provision. Nonetheless, a new Era has been entered into, the Dobbs Era, and it appears that even cities will have to get more involved in the push for pro-life public policy.
But what exactly does this mean? Currently, sixty-one cities across America have passed a Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance.[ii] Nine passed on November 6, 2022. Washington County, Virginia has passed a resolution looking into passing zoning regulations that would prohibit abortion services.[iii] More cities and counties are looking to ensure that the plague of abortion does not come into their communities. As a result, these sorts of initiatives are becoming more routine in the Dobbs Era. It no longer is just a state issue to protect the unborn, it literally has become a very local issue.
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One thing has become quite apparent within the Dobbs Era, that within blue and purple states the pro-life issue will become much more localized. It is clear that within these states there is movement to enshrine abortion as a so-called constitutional “right” or it has already happened. It is now becoming more evident that local cities, towns, and counties will have to fight back against this injustice. Currently, there is a strong effort to pass local ordinances that prohibit abortion within that particular local jurisdiction using civil means to enforce the law. These sanctuary cities for the unborn are becoming more prevalent in the post-Roe world. But what are some of the reasons why more locales should pass these laws?
Firstly, it sets apart blue cities that set state policy from the red locales that have differing values. These ordinances certainly tell the community and others that abortion is wrong and it simply will not be tolerated within this municipality. In many ways this is a necessary step. For if one city takes this step it also encourages other locales to do the same. In essence, a state could, in theory, have all of its rural counties outlawing abortion, while only the one or two urban counties do not. In theory, it is possible that abortion would only exist in those cities, and while the so-called right to abortion exists within a state constitution, it is effectively illegal in the vast majority of the state. This certainly sends a strong message to state officials about what much of the state thinks about morality of abortion. But furthermore, it can protect border cities as well. Those locales that reside in purple or blue states where abortion is either not completely outlawed or legalized for any reason may be still be able to protect themselves from those who wish to protect themselves from an ever intrusive abortion industry who wishes to set up shop on the border of a state where abortion has been outlawed.
Secondly, while some may try to challenge the law, it has been proven difficult to overturn due to the construction of its civil provisions. The construct is genius in many ways. The law does not target the woman’s so-called “right” to get an abortion. It mainly targets the abortionists and those who assist her. Furthermore, it does not criminalize the act, it only makes a civil cause of action. In essence, it says that others have been harmed by the death of the unborn child, as a result, they may sue.
Thirdly, this law frightens the abortion industry. Since there has been so much trouble in overturning such laws, a so-called state constitutional right to abortion will not simply overturn this. As stated above, this does not target the so-called “right”. It targets the abortionist. There is no right of the abortionist to provide abortions enumerated in any state constitution. Even the recently passed pro-abortion state constitutional amendments do not enumerate this. They only enumerate the so-called “reproductive right” of the woman. Furthermore, the so-called “right” to provide abortions is not a so-called “reproductive right.” It is merely the power of the abortionists to do abortions. Since it targets this ability of the abortionist and does not necessarily infringe upon the so-called “right” to abortion by the woman, this is why it is difficult to overturn this law.
In conclusion, communities that are pro-life need to seriously consider passing these Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinances. Whether they be large or small. Whether they may be threatened with the possibility of having an abortion clinic or not. The fact, remains in the Dobbs Era pro-life communities will need to stand up and be a stronger voice for life. It is no longer just up to the state and federal officials to pass pro-life laws. The challenge now falls to these local communities. It is time to stand up to the task.
[i] McCammon, Sarah, “After Wins at the Ballot, Abortion Right Groups Want to ‘Put This to the People’”, NPR, November 11, 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/11/10/1135757008/after-wins-at-the-ballot-abortion-rights-groups-want-to-put-this-to-the-people?fbclid=IwAR37W2mA_rw95Gp0KdfdMtGYOLzJrMjfeYt8fZjGFvpnQAdIkbxtZj_9ggU, retrieved on November 15, 2022.
[iii] Mancera, Joaquin, “Supervisors Pass Resolution and Zoning Rules to Restrict Abortion Services in Washington County”, Bristol Herald Courier, November 9, 2022, https://heraldcourier.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/supervisors-pass-resolution-and-zoning-rules-to-restrict-abortion-services-in-washington-county/article_c3803e46-5fed-11ed-9f5b-5765a9df8772.html, retrieved November 15, 2022.
LifeNews Note: Joe Kral, M.A., is the President of the Society of St. Sebastian and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Bioethics in Law & Culture Quarterly.