Guest Column

City of Danville advances ‘Sanctuary City for the Unborn’ ordinance in Illinois

On Tuesday night, the Public Services Committee of the city council of Danville, Illinois, voted 3-1 to move forward with a positive recommendation a “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinance requiring compliance with federal abortion laws. Located in Vermillion County, the most eastern part of the City of Danville (pop. 28,177) borders the state of Indiana. 

The ordinance was moved forward to be considered due to the expected arrival of abortion services in the community. In mid-March, McGhee Investment Group, LLC purchased a property located at 600 North Logan Avenue. This LLC was formed in early February, and lists Ladonna Prince from Indianapolis, Indiana, as its registered agent. McGhee Investment Group, LLC lists Prince’s address as 3607 West 16th Street, Indianapolis, Indiana – which is the same address used for Clinic for Women – the abortion facility in Indianapolis Ladonna Prince is the administrator. The location of the planned abortion facility in Danville is 6 miles west of the Illinois-Indiana border and 85 miles from the abortion facility in Indianapolis.

Like the ordinance passed most-recently in the Town of Edgewood, New Mexico, the proposed ordinance for the City of Danville would require compliance with federal statutes passed by Congress in 1873. These statutes, found in 18 U.S.C. §§ 1461–62, prohibit the mailing and the receiving of abortion inducing-drugs and abortion paraphernalia. 

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Since early February, the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative has been educating community leaders throughout the City of Edgewood about these federal statutes and how they are being used in local ordinances throughout the United States. On Wednesday, March 22, a Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Interest meeting was held at the Rock Church and on Thursday, March 23, an Interest Luncheon was held with Danville-area pastors and ministry leaders at a local restaurant for this very purpose. 

On Monday, March 27, the Illinois House of Representatives Freedom Caucus held a press conference across the street from the planned abortion facility expressing their opposition to the facility and standing in support of the idea of the City of Danville considering a Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinance. 

The use of these federal statutes, which are part of the Comstock Act, have been getting much attention in media outlets throughout the United States. In an April 14 article in Slate, University of California–Davis School of Law professor Mary Ziegler spoke of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative’s use of the Comstock Act to restrict abortion. Zeigler shared about how those behind the initiative argue that “every single abortion in the United States, surgical or medical, requires something that comes in the mail.” Ziegler continued, “Abortion providers don’t create their own medical devices or surgical instruments. They don’t make their own drugs. They get them from medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical distributors.” 

In another article published April 17 in the Huff Post, the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project Director Jennifer Dalven said that if the courts adopt these federal statutes it “would be absolutely catastrophic” to the abortion industry. 

Photo of Danville City Council meeting: Ted Hartke. Used with permission. (Facebook)

Over 30 people who attended Tuesday night’s meeting chose to speak on the proposed ordinance. Perhaps most notable among the opposition was the ACLU of Illinois, which had sent a letter the day before to the City of Danville. The letter from the ACLU argued two main points: (1) “The Ordinance Would Violate Illinois Law” and (2) “The Comstock Act is Inapplicable in Illinois.” During the meeting, Mayor Rickey Williams shared that he had received a letter from Attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell who committed to represent the City of Danville “at no cost to the city or its taxpayers” in any litigation that may result from a decision to enact the proposed ordinance provided to the City of Danville. 

In the end, the vote of the Public Services Committee was 3-1 in favor of moving the ordinance forward. Aldermen Ethan Burt, Eve Ludwig, and Robert Williams voted in support of the ordinance, while alderwoman Tricia Teague voted in opposition of the ordinance. Alderman Rick Stebing abstained from voting on the ordinance. The two remaining members of the seven person Public Services Committee, aldermen Sherry Pickering and Darren York, were absent from the meeting. 

The final vote of the full City Council of fourteen is expected to take place on Tuesday, May 2. If the ordinance passes, Danville will become the first “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinance passed in the State of Illinois. 

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