Hillsdale City Council is considering an ordinance that seeks to make the practice of abortion illegal within city limits and would declare the city a “sanctuary city for unborn children.”
The text of the ordinance was written by Mark Lee Dickson, a pastor from Texas who is in charge of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn initiative. Heather Tritchka-Stuchell, wife of council member Greg Stuchell, said she called Dickson and asked him to come to Hillsdale, and said she had 400 signatures in favor of the ordinance.
The ordinance would criminalize attempting to induce or perform an abortion within city limits, as well as anyone who possesses or distributes abortion-inducing drugs within city limits. It would also make it illegal to “assist or encourage” an abortion that occurs within city limits, including providing transportation to or from an abortion provider, providing instructions over the phone or the Internet, or by providing money to someone who knew it would be used for an Abortion.
The public comment portion of this week’s city council meeting lasted nearly an hour and forty minutes. More than 30 residents took the floor, expressing their support and opposition to the right to abortion.
Many residents have expressed concerns about the proposed order, even those who have said they are opposed to abortion. One of the main reasons people gave was the unorthodox way the ordinance was submitted to the council and the pastor from out of town who drafted it.
Hillsdale County Republican Treasurer Penny Swan was among the opponents for this reason. She said she was strongly opposed to the right to abortion, but took issue with the content and language of the order.
“It bypassed all normal channels, it didn’t go to any committee, no one was allowed to do due diligence, all of a sudden it was just in the board package on Thursday night, he There’s a Texas lobbyist in town who stays in the Stuchell AirBnB’s Councilmember, ”she said. “Transparency is sorely lacking in this prescription situation.”
Swan also took issue with how the Ordinance Champions got support.
“[I heard] people would knock on the door, and 400 was in favor of it. This all happened before the mayor and most of the councils had any idea of this ordinance. I know my door hasn’t been knocked and I’ve been talking to people literally all weekend … no one has been knocked on the door. “
Swan said the 400 signatures should be made public and the board should review and verify the signatures. She said she was also skeptical of how many people actually read what they sign.
Another concern that was raised was that there was no exception for rape and murder victims to have an abortion. Council member Tony Vear has voiced his opposition to such exceptions.
“The unfortunate act of incest or rape, which is horrible and bad. And so to justify this atrocious act, you are going to kill the innocent child? For what other crime does a parent commit for which you kill the child? And because of the opposition to what we want to do, we get all this backfire, ”he said.
A third major concern expressed by residents was this language in the ordinance:
“City Council urges all residents of Hillsdale to regard those who aid or encourage elective abortions in Michigan as criminals, in accordance with Michigan laws, and to report their criminal activities to appropriate prosecutors for investigation and criminal prosecution.” He also encourages said lawyers to prosecute individuals who aid and encourage abortions, including those who “knowingly donate money to abortion funds and abortion aid organizations.”
Resident Stéphanie Myers spoke at the meeting.
“This ordinance forces the state to pit citizens against each other, asking them to signal the intention of their neighbors. Creating a culture of suspicion and mistrust among neighbors is the antithesis of what it means to live in Hillsdale, ”she said.
Others, like Josh Colletta, have expressed concern about the role of municipal government and said it is beyond its purview.
“We are not a theocracy. It is not the job of the municipal government, it is the job of the federal government,” he said.
Many residents have expressed support for the proposed ordinance, with many citing their faith as the reason for their opposition to abortion rights.
Tritchka-Stuchell, the resident who contacted Dickson, also spoke during the public comment period.
“What is concerning is that the Biden administration is pushing abortion in every city in America,” she said.
Earlier this year, the Biden-Harris administration released a statement expressing its commitment to codify Roe v. Wade, who said: “We are deeply committed to ensuring that everyone has access to care – including reproductive health care – regardless of income, race, zip code, health insurance status or status. immigration. “
Dickson, the Texas pastor, said he has taken this approach with several cities in Texas and the ordinances passed there have withstood prosecution.
“You might say, ‘Well, why would she contact me? But I was involved in the 33 cities that succeeded in banning abortion within their city limits. There were prosecutions, but we won, we found victory, ”he said.
Council member Greg Stuchell is Tritchka-Stuchell’s husband and has said he supports the ordinance.
“What we mean is not here, not in our city. We are not going to kill our children, we are not going to kill our future.” But he was quick to say the ordinance would have limited impact anytime soon, saying, “A lot of these things mean nothing until Roe v. Wade is overturned.”
Tom Thompson, the attorney for the city of Hillsdale, said there were many questions regarding the legality of the order in the state of Michigan.
“The Texas legislature took steps to clarify that the local municipality had the power in the first place to pass an ordinance on this matter. Michigan is not. So there are open questions, a many of them, as to whether you even have the power to pass such an ordinance in the state of Michigan, ”he said.
Council member Bruce Sharp criticized the ordinance and said he supported the right to abortion.
“A woman’s body is her rights, her choice … now we tell her that she doesn’t have that right if we adopt this,” he said. “I want to make sure we make the right decision about this. I don’t want this to get stuck in my throat, I don’t want to be rushed. I’ve had people approach me about this. They are not happy, saying ‘you could hand over your neighbor… a $ 500 fine!’ “
The board voted 8-0 to send the order to the Governance and Oversight Committee, whose chairman, Will Morrisey, was absent. After that, there is the possibility of a public hearing.