Midlothian City Council Votes 4-3 Not To Pass Abortion Ordinance

Midlothian City Hall
Midlothian City Hall Staff Photo

Midlothian – Tuesday night’s City Council meeting was a packed house, as residents in attendance showed an interest in the topic of making Midlothian a sanctuary city. Following a presentation by the committee, the majority of the Midlothian City Council chose to vote no on an ordinance outlawing abortion and designating Midlothian as a Sanctuary City for the unborn. However, the 4 – 3 vote does not mean it is the end of the discussion.

For the four city councilmembers that voted no, they believe this was the type of decision the voters should have the right to make. Residents should have their voices heard on the matter, not a seven person council consisting of one woman and six men.

While Place 3 Anna Hammonds voted for the ordinance with a few questions during discussion, both Place 1 Wayne Sibley and Place 2 Walter Darrach voted “no,” but listened more than spoke during the council’s main discussion.

Sibley said before the vote “I am definitely against abortion no question about that. As far as this issue, I think this is an issue where we need the whole community to decide on it.  Yes, they elected us to make decisions, but this is a personal decision that I don’t feel comfortable with.”

Darrach asked during discussion “If this is what our citizens want given the magnitude and spotlight and potential derisive consequences moving forward, is there a downside to placing something this big out to the citizens for vote?”

Dan Altman, Sanctuary City Committee Representative, along with eight additional residents on the committee said, “There were voices that thought it would be a good idea to take to a wider vote, but the consensus was the elected leaders are elected to make decisions.”

The main voices in discussion were Mayor Richard Reno and Place 4 Clark Wickcliffe, both voting no, and Mayor Pro Tem Justin Coffman, who made the motion to pass the ordinance presented by the Sanctuary City Committee.

In Favor Of A Resolution vs. An Ordinance

Reno said “Ever since I have sat on council, we have had these discussions about the will of the people. This is a very emotional thing to stand against or to suggest something different is not easy. I believe in the sanctity of life, but quite frankly this ordinance is not going to save one life. And what it could do it put citizens against citizens, this is not why I was elected to be on council, to make this type of decision – we can make a resolution that is strong like the county did. The county has made a resolution that we are pro-life, and a sanctuary county so let’s do the same thing. If we want to make an ordinance, then we need to ask our people what they want and get them involved. I have no idea what the will of the people is on this decision, this is hard, and I have struggled with this.”

Hud Hartson, who seconded Coffman’s first motion to pass the ordinance, which failed twice, said he did believe this was a decision council should make.

And, Wickliffe, who asked many questions said, “This whole year has been frustrating because anytime there is a comment it is ‘you’re not Christian.’ I don’t think anyone up here is saying we are not pro-life; all we are saying is I think this is a decision that is bigger than us. I have gotten like 20 emails from both sides so 20 people from both sides and a committee of six is going to represent all 45,000/40,000 people.”

He went on to add “If there is an outcry against this, they can put it on the ballot.  The same is true if there is that large of support for it, they can put it on the ballot. The argument about, personally I think it is a terrible one saying both sides are going to dump in money. So, our citizens are so weak in their beliefs that they can be bought? I don’t understand that because I don’t think going to a public vote and dumping money will change someone’s true core value on how they feel about whether or not the city should have this. I also agree and disagree with Mr. Altman, but we won’t even borrow money without talking to our citizens, we won’t even go after bonds without talking to our citizens and now we are going to say hey this one is on us.  I don’t understand that either, I think we should let the citizens vote on it.”

The question was also asked “How much authority should a local government have to extend that far into someone’s life?”

During Altman’s explanation of the ordinance, he outlined each component. Mayor Reno, after a number of questions, finally suggested this was an ordinance that seemed to have “no teeth.” Mr. Altman respectfully disagreed with Reno’s statement.

One question arose as to what the purpose of the ordinance was overall? It seemed to make Midlothian a Sanctuary City and to keep abortion clinics out of Midlothian. Whereas the second purpose, would be a statement that Midlothian protects the sanctity of life.

Reno asked Altman what the difference was between the Heartbeat Bill passed in the State Legislature and the ordinance being presented to council. The Heartbeat Bill stops abortions when there is a heartbeat – the Midlothian ordinance is to stop abortions overall.

Reno said isn’t the only way to prove a life is by a heartbeat. The Plan B pill was mentioned as an option in some cases and there was question as to how Plan B is not the same as abortion, when is conception – Plan B stops conception. Does a life begin the moment of conception? If that is the case is the morning after pill also ending a life?  Discussion continued even more pointedly showcasing the fact that an ordinance like this could not be taken lightly by any decision made.

Both Sides Are Passionate About The Ordinance

In fact, one woman who spoke during public comment said that this type of ordinance was “risking negative ramifications” if passed. Furthermore, it was also described as “overreaching” by those in opposition to the ordinance, several of who were more than agreeable to let the voters decide. Another lady said city council needed to stay in their lane and focus on the city vs. people’s personal issues. There was an emphasis on keeping politics local.

Those who wanted to see the ordinance passed were adamant that it was saving lives and should be determined at Tuesday night’s meeting.  The other voices – there were about half and half speaking for and against during public comment, had concerns about what might happen with such an ordinance in the future. Would it set the city up for lawsuits? Lead to further divide among community members?

Altman did add that what the committee was presenting to council was not a cookie cutter approach to the issue. It was not an ordinance that has been adopted by other cities, and he went on to explain their approach. He went on to say if the city could write an ordinance declaring there would be no abortion clinics in the city of Midlothian, the committee would be happy. But, since that is not an option, we are trying to prevent abortion clinics in our city.

‘Beyond The Scope of The Council’

“This needs to have the vote of the people,” Reno concluded. He pointed out this was never an issue of political debate where residents asked how candidates/councilmembers would vote.

Coffman said he respectfully disagreed, “I think you have been put here for this very reason.”

City Council will now bring the item back to agenda at a later date to determine whether to put the issue on the ballot and let residents decide.