San Clemente City Councilmembers are set to discuss making their city an abortion-free zone under a new resolution. 

The resolution states that San Clemente will be a “sanctuary for life,” and that the city council will “enforce this resolution by all means within its power and authority.” 

But it doesn’t lay out any specific enforcement measures.

The resolution did provide an exception for pregnancies where the mother’s life is threatened or the child is conceived out of rape, saying the council was “neutral,” on those issues, and repeatedly stated the resolution was created to honor God. 

“We believe that life is God-ordained and God is the author and finisher of every life. No matter if at the beginning or at the end,” the resolution states. “As a city council, we will protect and sustain life at every stage. As we ask God to bless America, we first have to honor and respect God.” 

The resolution has not yet been discussed by council members. They’re expected to debate the proposal at the Aug. 16 meeting, and it looks to be headed to a city council that’s split over the issue, based on interviews and past public statements.

To view a copy of the proposed resolution, click here

Councilman Steve Knoblock asked to discuss the issue at the council’s July 16 meeting, and said in a phone call with Voice of OC that if approved the resolution would block any permitting or zoning required for abortion facilities in the city going forward. 

“What it would look like is the city’s position that we don’t want to have city government involved with the destruction of pre-born human life, and that would mean not allowing it through any legal means at the city’s disposal,” Knoblock said. 

Councilwoman Kathy Ward strongly opposed the proposed resolution at the council’s July meeting, calling it “ludicrous,” and that it’s not at the city’s level.  

“It’s going to cause a lot of problems. You’re going to make half the people in this city unhappy,” Ward said. 

When asked what his response was to concerns that the issue was beyond the city’s purview, Knoblock said anyone that didn’t want to discuss it “are people who prefer to allow the destruction of unborn babies.” 

“For 50 years, local governments have said we can do nothing about this because the Supreme Court has deemed the destruction of unborn babies a constitutional right,” Knoblock said. “There is forgiveness in God for the wrongs that have been committed and that the proper response isn’t to hide in shame from the offensive conduct, but rather to acknowledge the wrong and begin to do what’s right, which is to not destroy preborn babies.” 

Mayor Gene James said there was “no issue that’s more important to me,” when he seconded Knoblock’s request to discuss it at their August meeting, but after reading Knoblock’s proposal James said he has “serious reservations.” 

“California is still an abortion on demand state, and there’s not much the city of San Clemente can do in regards to that,” James said in a phone call with Voice of OC. “The one thing I don’t want to do is create a resolution that’s going to be divisive or appear to be hateful. Although I’m pro-life I have serious reservations about this particular resolution.”

Councilman Chris Duncan, who’s running for State Assembly with the endorsement of the Democratic Party, said he was against the ban.

“I don’t think cities should be getting involved in issues like this, but more broadly speaking I believe women should have the right to choose,” Duncan said in a Monday phone interview. 

Councilwoman Laura Ferguson said the council needs to “stay in our lane,” when asked about the issue by Voice of OC, saying that while she supported abortion within the first trimester, it’s an issue outside of the city’s jurisdiction. 

“It’s not even within our purview, it has no teeth,” Ferguson said. “It’s not in any way going to supersede state law.”

Ward did not return requests for comment from Voice of OC on Monday afternoon. 

Meanwhile, California voters will decide in November’s election whether or not to guarantee a right to abortion in the state’s constitution, after the state legislature approved the ballot question three days following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. 

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America. Contact him at nbiesiada@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada. 

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