The idea of sanctuary cities for the preborn is beginning to take root in municipalities around the country, and this is a good thing. Here are three reasons why pro-lifers should support these kinds of initiatives.
Reason #1: Taking a clear stand for life at the local level
Sanctuary cities for the preborn involve a city passing an ordinance, like this one drafted by Texas Right to Life, through which pro-lifers can take a decisive stance for life at the level of representative governance closest to them — and do so with formidable rhetorical impact. The Texas Right to Life draft ordinance defines an “unborn child” as a “natural person from the moment of conception who has not yet left the womb,” proclaims that “these babies are the most innocent among us and deserve equal protection under the law,” and argues that “the Supreme Court erred in Roe v. Wade, […], when it said that pregnant women have a constitutional right to abort their unborn children.” Therefore, the ordinance declares abortion providers to be “criminal organizations” prohibited from operating within city limits.
Reason #2: Deterring abortion facilities from opening in local communities
Although a city ordinance cannot legally overrule Supreme Court rulings, a city ordinance can deter abortion industry players from investing in a local community. By calling for prosecution immediately if and when the Supreme Court reverses precedent on abortion, a municipality can make an abortionist think twice about opening up shop. For instance, the Texas Right to Life draft stipulates that abortionists and accomplices, should Roe v. Wade be reversed, will be subject as “criminal organizations” to the “the maximum penalty permitted under Texas law for the violation of a municipal ordinance governing public health, and each violation shall constitute a separate offense,” while at the same time protecting mothers from any prosecution to avoid punishing vulnerable women. The Texas Right to Life draft also opens the door to civil action for “compensatory damages, including damages for emotional distress” and “punitive damages” against abortionists and their accomplices operating within city limits.
Reason #3: Expanding the scope of the pro-life fight
Cities passing sanctuary ordinances for the preborn are opening up a new front in the pro-life struggle, complicating abortion activists’ battle against life and potentially straining abortion activists’ resources. For decades pro-lifers have fought on the national level. But in recent years, pro-lifers have had considerable success in pro-life state legislatures, and the balance of the Supreme Court has potentially changed with the appointment of Justice Kavanaugh to Justice Kennedy’s seat.
Yet in a piece for The Federalist, Rebecca Parma has observed in responding to skeptics of the municipal ordinances, “Now is not the time to dismiss strategy, as our goal is so close at hand. Rather, now is the opportune moment to expand our arsenal, with pro-life city ordinances as another tool for dismantling the faulty legal framework of Roe.”
Parma notes that, despite threats of legal action from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, so far no such municipal sanctuary ordinances have been subject to legal challenges, as they have been carefully crafted to operate within current legal frameworks and abortion jurisprudence.
Sanctuary cities for the preborn are unlikely to be the decisive point in the pro-life fight, but they have an important role to play. Such ordinances can serve to advance the pro-life cause on the local level, deter abortion industry players from opening in municipalities, and expand the scope of the pro-life struggle.
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