City Council Meeting Packed As Residents Express Concern Over Abortion Ordinance
MIDLOTHIAN – When is it government overreach and when is it right for a City Council to determine an ordinance that has to do with abortion?
The Midlothian City Council had an agenda item Tuesday night with that question front and center of debate. The council chamber room was full of community members anxiously waiting to hear what city leaders would decide.
The agenda item addressed the issue of Midlothian becoming a sanctuary city for the unborn thereby outlawing abortion in Midlothian.
2022-177 Consider and act upon an ordinance outlawing abortion, declaring Midlothian a sanctuary city for the unborn, providing a repealing clause; providing a severability clause; and providing for an effective date.
The item was on the agenda at the request of Place 5 councilmember Justin Coffman.
‘City Needs Protective Measures In Place’
Coffman spoke on the agenda item saying it was added to get the conversation going about the unborn. The goal to “prevent abortions and the abortion industry from setting up shop inside of our city limits.”
Coffman did note there had been some concerns regarding the wording of the ordinance, which timing did not allow correction on prior to the meeting. He also noted he believed this item should be done right the first time and there was a matter of some tweaks and adjustments. Coffman said he wanted to be on record that he 100% stands behind the idea and believes the city needs protective measures in place.
He suggested there were three options for council. One would be to review and do a similar pass/fail vote on the ordinance. Option two they could go through the ordinance and make changes to “land on a document” that at least four people could agree to. Or option three, request Mayor Reno to create a committee to put a solution before the council as soon as possible.
Midlothian City Council Listens To Public Feedback On City Abortion Ordinance
Before heading into Executive Session council heard over a dozen public comments on the topic.
Most of those in the audience spoke in favor of the ordinance with a strong religious bend behind their fervor.
Those that opposed the ordinance did so with the idea that it is not a city council’s job to determine a decision like the one in question due to it being too much government overreach.
“Where does that overreach end,” said resident James Washington, a Veteran speaking out. He said, “If we are going to be or consider an ordinance of this magnitude, let’s put it before all the voters of the city.”
During his public comment Washington said, “I am here tonight in opposition to a tough decision you all have to make tonight.”
Deeply Divided Community
Washington went on to say “Midlothian is a beautiful city, but what would make Midlothian even more beautiful is a willingness to come together to solve common problems like infrastructure, schools, and taxes. This proposal will only further divide an already deeply divided community where some residents feel unwelcome. This proposal in my opinion is an overreach of government to a deeply personal decision of a woman, and it comes at a time when this city council is confronted with issues such as the speedway at Highway 287 and Presidential…”
He went on to add “There are currently 50 registered sex offenders in zip code 76065 in Midlothian, Texas. In my opinion the city is already a sanctuary city. What are we doing to protect our children from these predators living among us?”
Ellis County Judge Speaks In Favor
Ellis County Judge Todd Little was the last of those who spoke regarding the ordinance in question. He spoke in favor of the ordinance mentioning a resolution he and the all-male Commissioners Court passed in Ellis County naming it a sanctuary county. In fact, in January of last year Ellis County became the first county in Texas to become what they called a “sanctuary county for the unborn.”
After Little spoke, Place 4 councilmember Clark Wickliffe asked him if Ellis County passed an ordinance or a resolution. Little said it was a resolution not an ordinance, which is quite a significant difference.
Little also read from the Declaration of Independence during his three-minutes of public comment. “We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator by certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Residents Spoke In Favor
He reminded the Midlothian City Council that Lubbock voters “passed a proposition by a majority vote to become a sanctuary for the unborn and prohibit abortion in the city of Lubbock after all the council members cited legal complications to the ordinance, they voted the ordinance down.” Little said, “Every one of those council members and mayor have opponents in this upcoming election.”
Additional comments in favor of the ordinance included a reminder to the city council that they were put in a position to “act upon their faith, not just proclaim their faith but actually act on it.”
Another said “Many pastors are in support of this,” while one person in public comment said “We must defend the defenseless whatever form or fashion that may take” and “I believe it is safe to say that every person present in this room tonight appreciates the fact that they are alive.”
Some Residents Want More Discussion And A Public Vote
One of the few who was strong enough to speak out against the ordinance – Dana Rowe said “I feel a small group of people are deciding for us an ordinance to be put into place about a critical issue that may affect situations and families where we cannot know the circumstances. What are we doing here and why, and I am questioning the timing? I feel we haven’t the right to take away a person’s right to choose. There must be more discussion. There should be a public vote. You are the Council FOR ALL PEOPLE. Please allow my opposition to the ordinance to be recorded.”
When council went into Executive Session some in the crowd commended Washington for his earlier words regarding the city and one even noted he had not felt comfortable speaking on the issue in public.
As for Washington he concluded after the vote “The council did the right thing in deferring until they have all the information, so they can get this right.”
Motion To Defer
Following Executive session, Councilmember Coffman made the motion to defer the ordinance, stating they would like more time to work on it and consider all options available. He added that he is requesting the Mayor form a committee to review every option and bring it back to the council as soon as possible.
Councilmember Hartson seconded the motion. Hartson said after the meeting that he agreed with the decision to defer since the City Attorney had not had the time to talk to the Right to Life attorney regarding all the wording of the ordinance.
A call that both Midlothian Mayor Richard Reno and Place 3 Mayor Pro Tem Ted Miller also thought was the best idea regarding the sanctuary city ordinance.
“We also decided we want to look at doing a variation of the ordinance along with a resolution and rezoning,” Hartson concluded.