SAN CLEMENTE, California. – The San Clemente City Council voted 3-1 on Saturday to remove a resolution from the August 16 meeting that sought to ban abortions in the city, after hearing from mostly outraged citizens during a public comment period that lasted about lasted two hours.
The majority of residents who addressed the council at Saturday’s special meeting criticized Councilman Steve Knoblock’s proposal, accusing Knoblock of going too far and trying to impose his personal religious beliefs on the city’s women. Many also expressed concern about the effect of such a move on the city’s reputation and business interests.
A smaller number expressed support for the resolution and praised Knoblock for his courage in bringing it forward.
The resolution would have called for the city to become a “Sanctuary For Life” and would have blocked the zoning or permitting of any facility that would provide an abortion in the city.
Mayor Pro-Tem Chris Duncan called the resolution an effort to “submit women and girls like my daughters to second-class citizens.”
But Knoblock, the only voice against the repeal of the resolution, offered a fervent defense of his actions.
“There was a lot of discussion today about opening a can of worms. This resolution did not open a can of worms. The issue of abortion is a public policy issue that is now at the forefront of society,” he said. “In the state of California, the Democrat-controlled legislature and governor has put on the agenda the unfettered constitutional right for a woman to kill her baby at any time during childbirth, for the full 10 months… That can of worms has been open.
“That’s why I suggested this city take action to oppose it. It’s a slippery slope, and it’s one that this society will face,” Knoblock added.
Major Gene James took responsibility for holding the special meeting at short notice. “We rushed this, and the reason we rushed it was that many of you wrote to us saying it was rushed,” James said.
The mayor added that the council was receiving threats over the divisive issue to be referred to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office.
“I will take the responsibility of saying that I wanted to do this today. As mayor, I had the authority to call a meeting with 24 hours notice. That was not intended to silence anyone… it was an attempt on my part to put this behind us.”
The imbroglio showed how the abortion issue has become a hot-button topic in local governments across the United States in the weeks since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal nationwide, and the issue back to everyone. individual state.
Councilor Laura Ferguson told City News Service earlier this week that she had been approached by James last month to table the resolution, but declined. She said Knoblock brought it up at the July 19 meeting.
Ferguson said she has a lot of respect for Knoblock, adding: “He’s been a friend for years, but I just don’t agree with him on this one.”
Knoblock told the Los Angeles Times he wanted to send a message to the rest of California that “we think life is important, and we think 60 million unborn babies killed in the womb is a sad thing and should not be continued.” .”
California Attorney General Rob Bonta and two professors from the local law school called the potential resolution unenforceable earlier this week.
“In California, the right to choose remains fully protected, and abortion remains completely legal in our state,” a spokesman for the attorney general told City News Service on Wednesday. Attorney General Bonta is committed to the defense of reproductive freedom and state laws.
RELATED: California AG questions San Clemente’s bid to become an abortion-free zone
Ferguson said the resolution would be a “symbolic, non-binding resolution. It has no teeth. It clearly states only a person’s position on the council. Personally, I believe in a person’s freedoms and liberties.”
“We’re out of our lane here,” Ferguson said. “It’s a huge distraction. We have problems, we have homelessness like most coastal cities and the housing element that needs to be addressed.”
UC Irvine, professor of political science and law, Tony Smith, characterized the move as “cheap political theatre.
“This is akin to The Little Rascals putting on a show,” Smith said, referring to a group of child actors who starred in a series of comedy shorts from 1922 to 1944. “There’s nothing about this, no ability to make this happen.
“And this is definitely not what a city voter wants their city council to do. Even city dwellers who think abortion should be banned don’t want their city council deciding what rights they have and don’t have.”
Chapman University law professor Mario Mainero pointed out that the issue of whether a city can act independently of state law has been discussed in recent years when Huntington Beach failed in its lawsuit to overrule state policy. the state to stop immigrants living in the country illegally and when the county failed to enforce a law banning registered sex offenders from all parks. Legal precedent was created in the appeal courts over the question.
“Under state law, abortions are legal to the point that the standard Roe had,” Mainero said. “State law takes precedence over local law in most cases. Especially in these kinds of cases, because even if San Clemente were a charter city, this is not an item where a charter city could violate the state constitution… So if San Clemente approves something like that , it’s emptiness.”
UCI law professor Michele Goodwin agreed.
“There can be no such thing as an abortion-free community in the state of California where one’s rights under the state constitution and legislative provisions are in effect and present,” Goodwin said.
“That’s true whether we’re talking post-Dobbs or pre Roe vs. Wade. The state of California has been very clear about the principles of reproductive freedom, and that doesn’t change because there are elected council leaders who direct local or national attention.” trying to establish that community as an abortion-free zone.”