The city of Bakersfield, Calif., has been debating abortion for a very, very long time. Now, finally, the issue has come to an end, as the city council agreed to a fact that the rest of the country has long known: a city ordinance is no way to try to ban abortion.
A “Human Life” ordinance was introduced in the spring, strongly supported in part by long time anti-abortion activists, “sidewalk counselors” and former Rescue movement participants Tim and Terri Palmquist. In its original form, the ordinance was supposed to make abortion illegal in the city of Bakersfield by declaring that life was protected from the moment of conception. The Palmquists, who have been an active presence outside of Family Planning Associates in Bakersfield, were vocal testifiers in favor of the ordinance.
The original ordinance stated that, “It shall be unlawful within the City of Bakersfield for any entity to receive any form of consideration for the purpose of killing any human being,” then allowed “any person aggrieved” to be able to file civil suit for damages.
The city council, however, eventually came to terms with two simple facts: a) it is unconstitutional to have a city specific abortion ban more strict than the state that the city is located in; and b) even if it were not, full bans on abortion itself is still unconstitutional, as well. The original ordinance was instead replaced with a feel good, legal free statement that abortion is not good and should not be allowed to ever exist.
Even that new language was venomously debated, with arguments over whether the city “respects and honors all viewpoints, religions, and creeds,” or only “recognizes” them, and whether the city “respects all human beings, including those who reside in the womb,” or not.
Fighting against respecting and honoring alternate viewpoints was Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan. “This is all about respecting and honoring all human life. Not honoring all creeds and all viewpoints … We have Wicca, there are a lot of things around, and I will recognize them, but I won’t honor and respect them,” she said during a council meeting Tuesday night.
In the end, even the no-teeth, “respect life” version of a city ordinance failed to make it through the city council. In a 5-2 split, the council voted to table the matter all together, with a number of the members saying that although the oppose abortion, they believe the City attorney, who advised them that the city could be open to lawsuit if anything did pass.
The council of Bakersfield said that it had a “fiduciary responsibility” to the city to protect it from potentially having its funds sucked up in a meaningless lawsuit over unconstitutional bills. That’s advice that unfortunately was not followed in Albuquerque, N.M., where another group of Rescue movement acolytes have pushed for a 20 week abortion ban in their city, hoping to stop later abortions at a local clinic in town. The city council there did have the power to table the measure, despite the signatures gathered to put a ban on the ballot, but chose not to out of fear of either their own political futures or the threat of lawsuits from anti-abortion litigators who pressed them to allow the special election over the ban.
Although the attorney general has called the ban unenforceable, and the city will be sued over it, the 20 week ban will still be up to the voters on November 19.
If only Albuquerque’s city council has been as responsible as Bakersfield’s council was.
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