Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with local activists, a Bakersfield City Council committee approved an anti-abortion resolution on Monday affirming that “there are many positive and feasible alternatives to abortion.”
To take effect, the resolution must be approved by a council majority and could come before the full council on Oct. 16. However, the resolution approved Monday is a step back from an earlier, more restrictive proposal.
Nevertheless, its approval marked a victory for anti-abortion activists.
City Attorney Ginny Gennaro said the resolution is more of a policy statement, and not designed to be enforceable such as resolutions pertaining to land use.
The committee vote was 2-1, with Ward 6 Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan dissenting. Sullivan said she would rather see the committee pass a version of a so-called Human Life ordinance, which the committee discussed in May but voted to table indefinitely.
That ordinance would have restricted abortion in Bakersfield, something Gennaro repeatedly has said would expose the city to litigation.
On Monday, the committee’s vote tabled the ordinance again, more strongly — ordering it not be considered again unless the Bakersfield City Council votes to send it back to committee.
More than half of the 22 citizens who addressed the committee urged it to take some kind of stand against abortion, some framing the debate in a larger context.
“This is not Berkeley, this is not San Francisco, this is not West L.A. This is Bakersfield, and I believe we have to celebrate life,” said Ted Duncan, senior pastor at Calvary Bible Church. “This ordinance is a good way to do it, and I encourage you to pass it.”
Tim Palmquist, administrator of LifeSavers Ministries and writer of several versions of the Human Life ordinance and resolution, and his wife, Terri, were passionately opposed to the resolution, which Tim Palmquist later called “unsalvageable.”
“If you’re here to protect human life, please vote for the Human Life ordinance,” Terri Palmquist said, her voice choking with emotion. “It is for our city and it is not about fluff.”
Other speakers disagreed entirely.
“I am insulted, as a woman, that it is even being considered, that you men are speaking in favor of this proposal, when you will never be pregnant,” said Arvin resident Catalina Garcia, admonishing the committee to address higher priorities such as gang violence — and twice being interrupted by committee Chairman Terry Maxwell and reminded to stay on point.
“Our society was thrown a curve-ball, and you just can’t hit a curve-ball,” Maxwell said during committee comments, referencing Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively legalizing abortion. “We have a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens that live in this city. If you think this is an expensive conversation to have, think about having this conversation in front of a judge.”
Sullivan continued to back the ordinance over the resolution.
“The pendulum is swinging toward life. I am certainly going to support passing this ordinance. It’s worded in such a way that I feel the city will not be subject to legal recourse,” said Sullivan.
Johnson, the Ward 7 councilman, said passing the resolution is a good move.
“There’s nothing wrong with us putting forward a resolution saying the committee is supportive of those that have a pro-life message, and that they have a place and a voice in our community,” Johnson said.