Every day we grow nearer to Roe v. Wade being overturned and states finally being able to fully restore the rights of preborn children after 46 years of deadly violence.
After the Supreme Court of the United States decided Roe in 1973, and especially since the subsequent 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, state governments have enacted incremental protections for preborn children to the fullest extent possible under current court rulings. This strategy of step-by-step victories has saved millions of preborn children over the decades and has progressively undermined the legal foundation of the unjust Supreme Court ruling. Now, even local governments are stepping up to foster incremental pro-life victories.
Most Americans overlook that pro-life advances can be made at the local level as well. As a movement, we largely focus on passing legislative fixes at the state and federal levels, policies that are integral to our overall goal to end abortion in the United States. But most states do not have full-time legislatures, meaning state-level legislative progress is not possible for extended periods of time.
Texas is one such state. Despite most Texans’ strong pro-life values, the state legislature in 2019 failed to ban any abortions, including the remaining late-term or discriminatory abortions, allowing preborn children to be targeted for the next two years. Citizens of most states can relate to Texans’ frustration at the lack of pro-life policies enacted in their legislatures, and all pro-life Americans know this frustration at the federal level.
This is where pro-life advocates at the local level come into play, and Texas cities have taken matters into their own hands. Municipalities can pass an ordinance declaring themselves a “Sanctuary City for the Unborn,” classifying abortion as murder, outlawing elective abortion within the city’s limits, and prohibiting any abortion businesses from setting up within their jurisdiction. These ordinances allow cities to condemn Roe through exercising their constitutional right of self-governance, while making a rhetorical statement co-opting liberal language in defense of the truly most vulnerable population in our society.
One of the primary purposes of these ordinances is prevention. If cities that do not currently house an abortion facility take action now, they can immediately prevent abortion businesses from moving into their cities and committing abortions, using the fear of future prosecution against abortionists once Roe v. Wade is overturned.
The ordinances do not penalize women who seek or undergo an abortion, nor ban referral for abortions outside the city’s jurisdiction. Expertly crafted ordinances acknowledge cities’ limitations of working within the existing legal framework of U.S. abortion jurisprudence while taking a bold stance in defense of innocent human life.
Passing these local ordinances is an innovative, proactive strategy pro-lifers can employ to undermine the legal foundation of Roe v. Wade. Cities in Utah and New Mexico have already declared themselves Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn via symbolic resolutions, but this year Waskom, Texas, passed the first city ordinance in Texas to more powerfully outlaw abortion within city limits. Since then, several other communities have shown interest.
As accompanies nearly every pro-life advancement made in the United States, the abortion industry has responded to these local pro-life initiatives with lies and threats of legal action. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) threatened to bring lawsuits against cities that pursue these ordinances. The goal of these ordinances is not to expose cities to potential lawsuits, but to prevent abortion groups like Planned Parenthood from opening in new territories and attack Roe v. Wade.
As a movement, we walk a fine line with any and all advances we make. To end abortion in America, we must push as aggressively as we can for preborn rights within the current judicial framework, simultaneously recognizing that abortion giants will challenge many of these advances in court. All these reasons highlight the importance of carefully drafting ordinance language to protect pro-life cities from lawsuits to the greatest extent possible and take an assertive position for life.
Elective abortion was made legal in the United States through the court system, and that is where we must win to make abortion illegal. Because of this, we cannot be afraid of the courts. At the state and federal levels, we pass dynamic policies into law so they have the opportunity to be challenged, giving the U.S. Supreme Court the chance to dismantle Roe and showing us how much more aggressively we can push to protect preborn lives.
However, a court challenge is not guaranteed. In 2013, Texas passed the Preborn Pain Act, prohibiting abortion on preborn children at five months post-fertilization because this is the point at which we know so far that they can feel pain. To date, this lifesaving law has not been challenged in court.
Thus far, no Sanctuary City for the Unborn resolution or ordinance has been sued. This again emphasizes the importance of strategically drafting language and shows a lawsuit is not necessarily inevitable.
The more communities that pass Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinances, the greater effect they will have on courts considering abortion cases nationwide. 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.
Pro-life citizens must stand now against the injustice of elective abortion by taking legislative action to protect preborn children at every level of government, especially those closest to home. These pro-life city ordinances can affect the abortion debate happening across the nation, and with your help, your city could be next. Read the ordinance language here.