LONGVIEW, Texas (BP) – There are 41 local governments across the United States that have adopted ordinances banning abortions and declaring themselves Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn since the grassroots movement launched in 2019, movement founder Mark Lee Dickson said.
Dickson was on hand when Mason, Ohio, a town of about 33,000 people 30 minutes northeast of Cincinnati, became the latest city to declare itself a sanctuary for the unborn. The Mason City Council adopted the ordinance by a 4-3 vote Oct. 25.
“When I meet people who are interested in outlawing abortion in their city I always ask them if their community is ready for such a task. I ask them about what resources they have in their community to help women who find themselves in an unexpected pregnancy and I ask them if the area churches are involved in supporting those local efforts,” Dickson said Tuesday (Nov. 2). “If they do not have that in line, then they have some work to do.”
Several people have approached Dickson about the initiative, he said, since Waskom, a small Texas town, became the first to adopt such an ordinance in 2019. The director of the grassroots Right to Life of East Texas was senior pastor of Sovereign Love Church in Longview when he initiated Sanctuary Cities for Life. He currently describes himself as more of a church missionary.
“Most of the time when I go to cities, I am meeting with pastors and elders and deacons and speaking at churches about the importance of being involved in our communities; not just on the abortion issue, but on a whole variety of issues,” he said. “This isn’t just about loving our unborn neighbor, but loving our born neighbor as well.”
He sees value in working through local governments to fight abortion.
“I would hope that all of our cities would consider what they do and do not want taking place within their city gates. If a city does not want an abortion facility in their city then I think they need to consider passing an ordinance which would state, very clearly, that abortion is not allowed within the city limits,” he said, quoting Amos 5:15.
“For too long we have expressed our hatred for evil and our love for what is good, but we have neglected that part of Scripture which speaks of establishing justice in our city,” Dickson said. “I believe all of our cities need to have laws which protect pregnant women and their unborn children from the horrors of abortion.”
Lubbock, the only city among the 41 sanctuaries for the unborn that has an actual abortion clinic, survived a legal challenge in June when a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit from Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas and the American Civil Liberties Union. In Lubbock, residents approved the ordinance by 62 percent in May after the local government declined to enact the measure.
Similar to a statewide Texas abortion ban the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing, Lubbock’s ordinance allows relatives of unborn children to sue abortion providers.
The only other lawsuit filed in response to sanctuary cities is a 2020 challenge by the ACLU against seven local ordinances in February 2020, but the lawsuit was dropped after the cities amended their measures to decriminalize the organizations that brought the lawsuit, with both sides viewing it as a victory, Forbes reported in June.
“To this day,” Dickson said, “abortion remains banned in every city which was sued.”
Sanctuary city ordinances vary. Most cities declaring themselves such sanctuaries don’t have abortion clinics within their city limits and are substantially smaller than Lubbock, where population exceeds 250,000.
Mason’s ordinance does not penalize abortion seekers, but makes it illegal to knowingly “aid or abet” an abortion and to possess or distribute “abortion-inducing drugs.” The latter is considered a first-degree misdemeanors punishable by Ohio law with up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, The Enquirer reported.
Mason allows exceptions for “accidental miscarriages,” ectopic pregnancies and abortions to save the life or protect the health of mothers threatened by “death or a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function.”
Mason’s ordinance is the second such ordinance adopted in Ohio after Lebanon, a town of 20,000 people adopted an ordinance in May. Other Ohio cities considering such bans have included Celina and London, both towns of about 10,000 people, The Enquirer reported. The ordinance is set to become effective 30 days from passage, but its enforcement is not certain in light of Roe v. Wade’s national legalization of abortion.
Most sanctuary cities for the unborn are in Texas. In addition to Waskom and Lubbock, Texas sanctuaries for the unborn are, according to Dickson, Joaquin, Tenaha, Gilmer, Westbrook, Rusk, Colorado City, Gary City, Big Spring, Wells, Whiteface, East Mountain, New Home, Morton, Ackerly, Grapeland, Goldsmith, Carbon, Gorman, Abernathy, Poynor, Murchison, Latexo, Levelland, Sundown, Sterling City, Centerville, Eastland, Leona, Crawford, Brownsboro, Impact, Nazareth and Cisco. Omaha adopted an ordinance in September 2019, but replaced it with a resolution the following month.
Other sanctuary cities include Hayes Center and Blue Hill, both in Nebraska.