Temecula will not consider a ban on abortion, as council members on Tuesday night, Sept. 27, rejected a council member’s proposal to discuss making the municipality a “sanctuary city for Temecula’s unborn.”
The five members of the Temecula City Council heatedly discussed the pro-life resolution suggested earlier this month by Council Member Jessica Alexander. It debated whether to bring back for a later vote her proposal that would have emphasized Temecula’s stance as a city against abortions and sought to ban the procedure within the city.
But the council voted 4-1 — with Alexander as the lone member supporting her suggestion — not to bring the issue back on a future council agenda.
Speaking from the dais, Alexander made clear her support of a pro-life, anti-abortion resolution in Temecula. As she spoke, Alexander played a video from Live Action, a national pro-life nonprofit group, that showed a fetus in a womb. She later held up a figurine of a fetus to make her point.
“Gov. Newsom has forced California, which includes our city Temecula, to be a sanctuary state for abortion,” Alexander said Tuesday. “It is our duty as city council members to uphold the oath we took to the Constitution and protect the rights of our citizens, seen and unseen. I am asking this body today to create a resolution that affirms Temecula stands for life, from conception to natural death.”
The resolution, had it gone to a vote and passed, would have violated state law, said the California Attorney General’s office, which had already sent a warning to the city that included a statement that it could consider legal action against Temecula.
The California constitution currently protects abortion access in the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling in June that overturned the nearly half-century-long constitutional right to abortion.
In Orange County, a similar resolution was proposed last month in San Clemente by City Council Member Steve Knoblock, but was removed from the agenda and not voted upon.
Alexander told her colleagues that “as a council, we are called to protect the public. What greater love can we show than to fight for the sanctity of life of the most helpless and innocent, which are our unborn neighbors? By creating this resolution, we are taking a stand for life and holding it up (as) sacred.”
Alexander — who is the director of Temecula’s Birth Choice Center, a pregnancy resource nonprofit organization — also emphasized that she is “not here to make a law,” but to ask for a city resolution letting “everyone know where we stand.”
“The basic definition of a resolution is to state what we stand firm on. It is our duty as city council members to set the standard for what our city stands for … I do not want Temecula to be known as a dark abortion state,” she said.
In the emotional discussion that followed, other council members expressed their views, with several on the dais — including Mayor Matt Rahn and Council Member Maryann Edwards — saying they also share pro-life beliefs. But they were concerned with the way the resolution was presented at the Sept. 13 meeting.
Rahn said the proposal was unclear, and wanted clarity in the future on how Temecula brings forth future city resolutions and proclamations.
“How do we move forward on something like this without in some regard disenfranchising a portion of our community? That’s the challenge,” said Rahn, a Republican who is running to represent the 71st Assembly District in the Nov. 8 election. “Arguably, every community has to struggle with its own identity and its own moral center.”
Edwards said she already believes Temecula is a “sanctuary city, without using it in the legal sense, that will cause us to get sued by the state of California. And I don’t want to go there.”
“Temecula provides safe havens for people to get counseling and support … Temecula has also been funding Birth Choice Temecula for a number of years,” she said.
City Clerk Randi Johl said the city received 122 emails, with 84% opposed to Alexander’s proposed resolution, and 22% supporting it.
About 200 people packed Temecula’s council chambers, overflow room and City Hall lobby area combined. At least 100 people were seen outside in the plaza and Town Square Park area, with some demonstrating.
Residents appeared split during public comments on the item.
Speaking directly to Alexander, Jennifer Crum accused her of “turning her back on women,” and pleaded with her to “not take away women’s rights.”
“Who are you keeping safe?” Crum asked. “Who’s being forced to have abortions, anywhere in the U.S. or nearby?”
Samantha Nguyen asked about how the city, should it enact an abortion ban, would provide resources – from paid leave to lowering the costs of diapers – to pregnant women.
Melanie Roth called an anti-abortion resolution “oppression,” and said she was concerned that the city would be “jumping before the gunshot” in November, when Californians will vote on Prop. 1, which would enshrine protections for abortion rights in the state, essentially making it into a sanctuary state.
Shalini Renfro said she was concerned that unborn children “are being dehumanized and killed in our state and nation every day.”
She said that she is pregnant, and toured Temecula’s Birth Choice Center, where Alexander works, to learn about its programs and resources.
“The right to life is the most foundational of human rights,” she said.
Gabriel Renfro, who also supported the proposed resolution, said that it is “a statement of identity for Temecula. We believe mothers, fathers, children and families deserve better than abortion.”
Bob Kowell argued that “it’s not a ban on abortion,” but a “resolution to say that we stand with life, rather than death.”
Staff writer David Allen contributed to this report.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.