On Tuesday night, the city council of Mineral Wells rejected the proposal of Mayor Christopher Perricone to declare the city a “Sanctuary City for the unborn.”
The town of 15,000 just west of Fort Worth would not have been the first such city in Texas. Last month, the city council of Waskom made a unanimous decision to adopt a similar ordinance.
Mineral Wells Index live-streamed last night’s meeting on their Facebook page.
Council members Regan Johnson and Beth Watson passed a motion at the beginning of the meeting to change the order of the agenda and vote on the proposal immediately, before allowing comments from citizens.
A legal advisor to the council told them that he professionally did not recommend moving forward with the proposal because it would challenge state and federal court precedent on abortion.
“This isn’t about our beliefs,” said council member Tammy Underwood. “This is about our legal consultation and the fact that it is overreaching the powers as far as the city government is concerned.”
Mayor Perricone argued that it was the council’s duty to consider the issue, asking, “Why are we in our position if we are not going to deal with these tough issues that are before us?”
Council member Brian Shoemaker said he was not willing to put the city at the risk of a lawsuit.
Mayor Perricone and Jerrel Tomlin were the only two council members to vote in favor of considering the ordinance.
Council members Johnson, Watson, Underwood, Shoemaker, and Doyle Light voted against consideration of the mayor’s proposal.
Nonetheless, following the vote the council listened to citizens of Mineral Wells and other advocates discuss their views on the mayor’s proposal.
Many advocates both for and against the proposal addressed the council.
The first resident to speak talked about her own heart-wrenching experience of being raped and having an incomplete miscarriage that resulted in medical intervention, saying that some might compare it to an abortion. She questioned the mayor’s proposal, asking if it was fair to keep a woman from having an abortion if she was too afraid to publicly tell anyone that she had been raped.
One resident who spoke thought that it was too divisive of an issue for the council to be discussing.
Another resident supporting the proposal referenced the way that it contrasted with the concept of sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants. “We have sanctuary cities in our state to protect those that are disobeying our laws and those who have already disobeyed in horrendous ways,” she said. “I think it’s definitely time to have something at the other end of the spectrum to give sanctuary to those who are completely innocent and have done nothing wrong except come into existence.”
Rhett Warren, the chairman of the board for the Mineral Wells Chamber of Commerce presented a statement from the Chamber, saying, “The Chamber is opposed to making Mineral Wells a sanctuary city for the unborn. The Chamber’s role in our community is to advance, support, and promote the economic vitality of Mineral Wells, and the Chamber believes that any such action that is in any way similar to that taken in Waskom, Texas would be bad for our current members and for future business and investment.”
The statement also said that any money that would be used for legal expenses if the ordinance was adopted could instead be used for economic development if the council blocked the mayor’s proposal.
Warren also added his own personal opinion, saying that if the city should enact one law on a biblical basis, other religiously-based laws should be added too. He mocked the proposal by suggesting that the city pass laws to make adultery illegal, prohibit work on the Sabbath, as well as ban birth control, alcohol, caffeine, Christmas, and birthdays because of various religious objections.
Pastor Stephen Broden, a former congressional candidate and the founder of the National Black Pro-Life Coalition, was also at the meeting and spoke in favor of the ordinance.
“As a black man, I stand before you because abortion has been primarily targeted against my community. You don’t feel that because you’re not in my community,” Broden told the council. “Abortion is the leading cause of death in my community…Five black babies are killed to every white baby in abortion.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that abortions by white and black women accounted for 36.9 and 36 percent of all abortions in 2015, respectively.
Census data shows that black Americans comprise 13.4 percent of the total population, while non-Hispanic white Americans comprise 60.4 percent. Statistically then, black women are over four and half times as likely to have an abortion than white women.
Also according to CDC data from 2015, the leading cause of death in the black community was heart disease, accounting for 75,249 of the reported 320,072 deaths. In contrast, the CDC report on abortion showed that in 2015, abortions by black women numbered almost 230,000.
After everyone had addressed the council members, they broke for a short break and then resumed the meeting with the regular business.
Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. While recently finishing his degree in Political Science from Azusa Pacific University, he also interned in the U.S. Senate and co-authored a book on C. S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy. In his spare time, he might be reading up on Dostoevsky or attempting to write a novel.