HILLSDALE, Mich. — A ordinance proposed in the city of Hillsdale would immediately outlaw abortion within the city limits.
Hillsdale Right to Life Vice President Heather Tritchka said the effort was inspired by other cities that have passed ordinances outlawing abortion.
“I was watching what Texas was doing. Texas was making these sanctuary cities. I thought, ‘Well, that’s really neat, but Texas is kind of a different world.’ Tritchka said. “Then I saw Ohio passed a similar ordinance. When that passed, I thought 'I wonder if we could do something like this in Hillsdale.'”
She called Right to Life of East Texas Director Mark Lee Dickson who says he’s also the founder of the sanctuary cities for the unborn initiative.
“In the state of Texas, we had the city of Waskom, and in June of 2019 became the first city in the nation to pass an ordinance outlawing abortion. They weren’t the last,” Dickson said. “Total now 37 cities across the United States have passed an ordinance outlawing abortion. Majority of those are in Texas.”
Dickson said, in Hillsdale’s case, there was interest among elected officials and interest among the community. “We just couldn’t ignore it.”
“There were hundreds of people that signed petitions at wanting to see this movement happen in the city” Dickson said. “Hillsdale is a very conservative community. This is something that we hear that this is what people are wanting to see become a reality.”
Which Tritchka said is true.
“I wanted to get a feel for what people thought and it was very supportive, gathered about 400 signatures within that valid 10-day period, just going door to door, which is a slow way to gather petitions,” Tritchka said. “I wanted to talk to people face to face and see how they felt about the petition. It was very overwhelmingly positive.”
Mary Ziegler, a professor at Florida State University College of Law and the author of "Abortion and the Law in America," said these ordinances "ask citizens to do the enforcing" by allowing residents the capability to sue their neighbors if they find them in violation of the ordinance.
"So much as what we saw in Texas, this is designed to essentially eliminate abortion in a place and make it difficult or impossible for anyone to bring a challenge to the ordinance in court,” Ziegler said.
Those are found in violation of the ordinance could get a $500 fine and imprisonment for 90 days. The ordinance says it's not dependent on Roe v. Wade being overturned.
Which doesn't work legally, Ziegler said.
“You can’t ban abortion period anywhere before viability unless or until Roe v. Wade is overturned. So, of the ordinance, being written the way it is, is to make it hard to make that argument in federal court, even though the ordinance is unconstitutional unless the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade,” Ziegler said.
The ordinance states the act is not an abortion if it is “done with the intent to save the life or preserve the health of an unborn child” or “remove a dead, unborn child whose death was caused by accidental miscarriage,” or “remove an ectopic pregnancy.” It also states there is a “very narrow” exception for cases where the mother’s life is at risk.
The city of Hillsdale does not have abortion clinics as of now.
The Biden administration in April temporarily lifted a medication abortion restriction that had required abortion pills to be picked up in person, allowing them to be mailed instead.
“This is not something that I want to see happening in Hillsdale and it’s a way to expand the abortion industry,” Tritchka said. “We have a college right here. Our young women up there are targets for abortion industry and I want to keep them out of this.”
The ordinance was presented to Hillsdale City Council at its Aug. 2 meeting. Protesters were there opposing the ordinance.
"In the provisions for the ordinance, you are not allowed any sort of exceptions for the case of rape or incest,” Candy Carter said. “There’s no exceptions for minors. The only thing that ordinance is concerned about is making sure that you have a delivered and healthy pregnancy."
But Carter said she is a carrier of a fatal genetic condition. She might have a healthy pregnancy, "however, the children that resulted from those pregnancies would be subject to a fatal disease. I don’t feel that the City Council or the prosecutor’s office should have any say what sort of life that I would want for my children.”
Carter said it is no coincidence this ordinance has been brought forth to City Council in the face of other legislation seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“It also opens the floodgates or civil lawsuits against your neighbors,” Carter said. “If I found out that my neighbor had taken her daughter to an abortive clinic, I personally, even though I’m not involved in their family could simply sue them for monetary damages. It’s not even just your actions, but it’s also the intention of having set actions. If I thought one of my neighbors intended to drive someone out of town to a clinic, I could civilly sue them. Of, if I thought that my neighbor was receiving medication through the mail, I could civilly sue them. Or, if I found out they donated money to a pro-choice organization, I could civilly sue them.”
The proposed ordinance would also make it unlawful to possess or distribute abortion-inducing drugs in the city or to mail those drugs.
A recent Marquette Law School survey said just 20 percent of the public favors overturning Roe v. Wade with 50 percent opposed and 29 percent declining to give an opinion. That's in line with other recent polls showing that more than two-thirds of Americans want the Supreme Court to keep the landmark decision intact.
“What’s changed is that Donald Trump put three new justices on the Supreme Court,” Ziegler said. “It’s not necessarily that the interest wasn’t there before. It just didn’t seem realistic to people in the pro-life or anti-abortion movement that the court could actually overturn Roe. Now, we have not just five conservative justices, which would be enough to have majority. We have six. And six justices seems almost to create an insurance policy that will make it more likely that Roe will be gone. Maybe in 2022 or the years to come.”
Tritchka says it is too early to say if the ordinance which is under review by city officials has a chance to be passed through by City Council.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about what this is,” Tritchka said. “They’re talking about penalizing miscarriages or penalize people who use these particular abortion drugs to help a woman who’s had a miscarriage to have the baby completely come out. This is nothing like that. This is not penalizing for miscarriages. It’s not penalizing for using these drugs to save the life of the mother.”
And if it doesn’t pass?
“I’m going to come back at this again from a different angle,” Tritchka said. “I want to know why it didn’t work, why the city attorney didn’t feel that it would work and then I’m going to work with those suggestions and then come back again. I don’t think this is something that you just walk away from when you believe that the life of every child is important and worth fighting for.”
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