Pueblo advances ‘Sanctuary City for the Unborn’ ordinance in Colorado

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On Tuesday, the city of Pueblo, Colorado (pop. 112,368), several hundred people showed up to hear what their city’s leaders would do concerning a “Sanctuary City for the Unborn” ordinance which was placed before them. After much debate, the “Ordinance Requiring Abortion Providers In Pueblo, Colorado to Comply with Federal Law” was allowed to move forward, surviving its first reading.

During the public comment portion of the meeting a total of 8 people spoke on the proposed ordinance — 6 in favor of the ordinance and 2 against the ordinance.

One speaker in favor of the ordinance was Brooke Faulkner, who serves as the Rocky Mountain Regional Coordinator for Students For Life of America. “I have heard firsthand the stories of how traumatic abortion is for young women. Even pro-choice women will tell you that it is not a simple procedure to walk away from. In and of itself we have seen the devastation that abortion brings,” Faulkner said. “Leroy Carhart not only willingly performs those traumatic procedures, but he has proven to do so carelessly. We have seen his record of harming the women he claims to protect. We do not forget the stories of Christin Gilbert and Jennifer Morbelli who tragically died in 2005 and 2013 because of his neglect. Yet, he seeks to come to Pueblo in order to make money off of those he harms.”

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Another speaker in favor of the ordinance was Quin Friberg, who spoke on behalf of the group Forging Pueblo. Friberg shared, “The issue tonight is not a woman’s right to choose; the status quo already requires women to leave Pueblo to get abortions and that option would remain… The ordinance only affects Pueblo City and stops these types of facilities from coming here, damaging our community, and making us a destination city for third trimester death.” Friberg continued, “I’d like to remind you Leroy Carhart is under investigation for hurting women, has been sued and investigated for the death of women in his facility, and sued for severe medical trauma caused by abortions he performed.”

The building at 1930 East Orman Avenue in Pueblo, Colorado was purchased by Leroy Carhart on September 19, 2022. (Photo: Mark Lee Dickson)

The ordinance requires everyone in the city of Pueblo to comply with federal abortion laws found in 18 U.S.C. § 1461 and 18 U.S.C. § 1462 arguing that these federal laws are superior to the State of Colorado’s Reproductive Health Equity Act.

The ordinance first addresses violations in regards to 18 U.S.C. § 1461 stating:

It shall be unlawful for any person to violate 18 U.S.C. § 1461 by using the mails for the mailing, carriage in the mails, or delivery of: (1) Any article or thing designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion; or (2) Any article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine, or thing which is advertised or described in a manner calculated to lead another to use or apply it for producing abortion.

Next, the ordinance addresses violations in regards to 18 U.S.C. § 1462 stating:

It shall be unlawful for any person to violate 18 U.S.C. § 1462 by: (1) using any express company or other common carrier or interactive computer service for carriage in interstate or foreign commerce of any drug, medicine, article, or thing designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion; (2) knowingly taking or receiving, from such express company or other common carrier or interactive computer service, any matter or thing described.

In addition to declaring it unlawful for anyone to violate 18 U.S.C. § 1461 or 18 U.S.C. § 1462, the ordinance also declares it unlawful for any person to engage in any conduct which “aids or abets the violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1461 or 18 U.S.C. § 1462.”

Like the Texas Heartbeat Act and the Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinances in Texas, this section of the proposed ordinance is enforced not by the city of Pueblo, but through private civil lawsuits.

The proposed ordinance also requires every abortion facility which wishes to do business in the city of Pueblo to comply with these federal laws. If they cannot abide by these federal laws, they cannot operate in the city limits of the city of Pueblo.

When it came time for the city council to take action on the ordinance Councilman Vincent Ortega made a motion to table the ordinance, with Councilwoman Sarah Martinez seconding the motion. The council voted 4-3 against tabling the ordinance with Councilman Dennis Flores joining Ortega and Martinez in voting to see the ordinance tabled.

Councilman Larry Atencino then made the motion to remove the ordinance from the agenda to reintroduce the ordinance at a later date, but his measure died for a lack of a second.

Having had much debate, the “Ordinance Requiring Abortion Providers In Pueblo, Colorado to Comply with Federal Law” was allowed to move forward, surviving its first reading with the agenda being approved in a 5-2 vote with Councilwomen Regina Maestri, Lori Winner, and Heather Graham being joined by Councilmen Atencino and Flores.

A work-session for council to be further educated about the ordinance will be held on December 12th. After the work-session to further educate the council about the ordinance, the ordinance will then return before the City Council for a final vote.

While the ordinance is different from the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn ordinances which have been passed in 61 communities across Texas, Nebraska, Ohio, Louisiana, Iowa, and New Mexico, it is authored by the same minds and it is believed that the ordinance will accomplish the same goal: an abortion-free community.

While a statement released by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office read, “Colorado Attorney General Weiser is committed to defending the Reproductive Health Equity Act and challenging unlawful acts that violate the law,” many in the Pueblo pro-life community are confident that they are forging the right path forward with this ordinance.

Friberg shared, “The Reproductive Health Equity Act does not void federal laws like 18 U.S.C. § 1461 and 18 U.S.C. § 1462. Until congress repeals these federal laws, both the Pueblo City Council and the State of Colorado have an obligation to obey these laws. This ordinance just says that the city of Pueblo is going to do their part.”

Attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell, former Solicitor General for the State of Texas and the architect of the Texas Heartbeat Act, has sent the Pueblo City Council a letter agreeing to represent the city of Pueblo at no cost to the city or taxpayers for any litigation which may arise if the city council chooses to pass the ordinance.

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