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As originally published on the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

The San Clemente City Council is set to consider a resolution in a couple of weeks that would declare the city a “sanctuary for life,” making it an abortion-free zone.

The resolution, which was written and proposed by Councilman Steven Knoblock, states that the City Council “considers life to begin at conception” and stands against the establishment of Planned Parenthood health centers or any other clinics where abortions are performed.

“There probably isn’t a family in America that hasn’t been impacted by abortion,” Knoblock said. “The [resolution] will get people thinking about what society has been doing for 50 years.”

The resolution, which will be discussed at the next council meeting on Aug. 16, doesn’t provide specific enforcement measures but does state that the resolution will be enforced by all of the “power and authority” of the council.

It also provides an exception for abortions in cases in which the mother’s life is at stake and in cases of rape or incest, stating that the council will remain neutral.

The mention of “God” is included multiple times throughout the resolution.

“We believe that life is God-ordained and God is the author and finisher of every life. No matter if at the beginning or at the end,” the resolution states. “As a city council, we will protect and sustain life at every stage. As we ask God to bless America, we first have to honor and respect God.”

A draft of the resolution, which hasn’t been officially published by the council, began making its way throughout the city, enraging many community members. Andrea Schmidt, the public affairs project manager for Planned Parenthood in Orange and San Bernardino counties, is currently leading efforts to mobilize against the resolution.

As of Tuesday, 15 people “and counting” are scheduled to speak at the next council meeting, Schmidt said.

“Politically focused and scientifically inaccurate resolutions like this are extremely dangerous,” Schmidt said. “If this resolution does pass, it will send a message to San Clemente residents that their local government does not support their fundamental right to control their own body and access quality, affordable healthcare.”

Schmidt said the resolution is a direct attack against the city’s Planned Parenthood health centers, which “thousands of local community members rely on for health care and education services.”

San Clemente Mayor Gene James, who seconded the motion of drafting the resolution at last month’s City Council meeting, said he was “appalled” and “embarrassed” while reading the resolution draft late last week.

“It appears to me to be a document that could have been written by a Taliban tribunal, and I’ll say that as a conservative, pro-life Republican,” James said.

When seconding Knoblock’s request to discuss the resolution in the August meeting, James said “there is no issue that’s more important to me than protecting the unborn.” At the time, James said he thought the resolution would strictly support the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade in June.

However, “that’s not what was in there,” James said.

Immediately after reading the draft, James contacted the city manager, city clerk and city attorney to ask if he could withdraw his second to the motion and “just kill” the resolution. He was unable to do so.

“Mr. Knoblock was making medical statements that simply were not accurate,” James said. “The fact is, California is a state where abortion is legal and there’s nothing the San Clemente City Council can do about that regardless of whether we are pro-life or pro-choice.”

James brought up the idea of a resolution “supporting the unborn” in an email to Councilwoman Laura Ferguson in late June. Ferguson denied James’ request to second the motion.

This is not the first time that a resolution brought forth by the San Clemente City Council caused tension in the community. Just a year ago, the council voted to declare the city a “Second Amendment Freedom City.” James proposed that resolution.

“This is another resolution that is going to be very contentious and divisive and really does not give us any kind of any authority to do anything at all,” Ferguson said. “We have so many issues in our town that we could be spending time on that this takes away from.”

Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan, who is running for Assembly District 74, echoed Ferguson’s points. He believes women should have the right to choose and city councils shouldn’t get involved in the issue, which exists at the state and federal levels.

According to Knoblock, this resolution is necessary because the overturn of Roe vs. Wade pushed the abortion issue down to the states.

“The cities and counties in the state are part of that process,” Knoblock said. “I just wanted our voice to be heard from San Clemente.”

Schmidt noted that a resolution like this is especially dangerous because it could encourage other cities to take up similar agendas that are “destructive and politically motivated.”

James understands the resolution will disrupt the next council meeting and expects community members “to show up angry and rightfully so.”

Schmidt said she expects “a large showing of residents who care about their community, support access to healthcare, and the freedom of choice speaking in opposition to this resolution, and ultimately we are hopeful that the council will make the right decision by voting ‘no’ on this resolution.


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