Pro-life activists fighting state abortion laws by creating sanctuary cities for the unborn

A rally for sanctuary cities in Hobbs, New Mexico, outside City Hall on Oct. 17, 2022.
A rally for sanctuary cities in Hobbs, New Mexico, outside City Hall on Oct. 17, 2022. | Courtesy Mark Lee Dickson

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and returned to states the right to make laws governing abortion, initiatives to secure sanctuary cities for the unborn are multiplying. 

On Tuesday, the city of Pueblo, Colorado, narrowly passed the first reading of a proposed ordinance that would ban abortions within city limits. 

Before the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe last June, Colorado lawmakers passed the so-called Reproductive Health Equity Act that declares every individual has a “fundamental right” to abortion or contraception. 

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As The Pueblo Chieftain reported, the proposed sanctuary city ordinance is the first “municipal anti-abortion regulation” brought forward in Colorado. 

Mark Lee Dickson, a pastor and director of Right to Life East Texas, was involved with the sanctuary city ordinance in Pueblo, Colorado. The pro-life activist has spearheaded dozens of efforts in cities across the U.S. to outlaw abortion by getting ordinances passed designating areas as sanctuary cities for the unborn. 

Pro-life activists like Dickson run a site called Sanctuary Cities For The Unborn, which invites like-minded residents to sign a petition indicating they want to see abortion outlawed in their city. 

In a statement to The Christian Post ahead of a Sanctuary Cities For The Unborn interest meeting on Nov. 21 in Pueblo, Dickson said that he and others who are part of the initiative “hope to see cities vote on ordinances in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and Minnesota before the year is over.” 

Dickson helped city councilor Regina Maestri draft the Pueblo ordinance, and he also spoke during the public comment section of the council meeting.

"If an abortion facility moves to Pueblo, Colorado, it's not the state capitol's problem,” the pro-life activist told radio station KRDO. “It's not the nation's capital's problem. It's a problem of this local municipality because they're the ones they're going to have to deal with it from it.”

Last month, the city of Hobbs, New Mexico, passed an ordinance that prevents abortion providers from being granted business licenses or operating within city limits in any capacity. While abortion remains legal in New Mexico at the state level, as Dickson noted, the ordinance requires businesses to comply with federal laws like 18 U.S.C § 1461

“The federal law on abortion prohibits the mailing of abortion-inducing drugs and abortion paraphernalia, along with the transportation of those items within the city limits of Hobbs, New Mexico,” the pro-life advocate said. 

In a statement to The Jurist, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham condemned the ordinance's passage, calling it an “anti-abortion resolution authored by out-of-state extremists seeking to criminalize essential reproductive health care.” The outlet also questioned whether such a provision was enforceable in New Mexico. 

“This is an ordinance,” Dickson told CP. “This is a law, and this is a valid law. This is an enforceable law. And if this law is violated, there will be consequences for those who violate the law.” 

In the aftermath of Roe’s reversal, the pro-life activist said that the sanctuary cities initiative has seen more people in New Mexico, California, and Minnesota signing petitions to outlaw abortion compared to other states. This, despite the fact that these parts of the country have kept abortion legal, with California promising to be an “abortion sanctuary.” 

Earlier this month, the city of Clovis, New Mexico, voted 7-1 to table a sanctuary city ordinance aimed at preventing abortionists from obtaining licenses in the city. Commissioners opted to table the ordinance due to concerns about the cost of a potential lawsuit, noting that abortion remains legal in the state. 

Dickson said that many people’s “hearts were broken” by the development. As The Eastern New Mexico News reported Thursday, the city opted to keep the ordinance tabled after the issue made its way back on the committee’s agenda. 

“There's always challenges, and those challenges are always evolving,” he said. 

According to the pro-life activist, the team behind the sanctuary city for the unborn ordinances consists of himself, an attorney, and city residents recruited for the cause. 

“It’s a careful process, and we work with communities all across the United States,” Dickson said. 

As The Christian Post reported last June, a federal judge dismissed Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit against Lubbock, Texas, to invalidate a sanctuary city ordinance. More than 62% of the city’s voters approved the abortion ban, making the town one of the largest sanctuary cities for the unborn in the country. 

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

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