After some revision, the Effingham County Board approved Monday a resolution making the county a “sanctuary for the unborn,” which drew both opposition and support.
In a mirrored vote from its legislative committee vote last Monday, the board voted 8-1 with Democrat Karen Luchtefeld the lone dissenting vote.
First proposed by Chairman Jim Niemann, the “Sanctuary for the Life of Unborn Human Beings” resolution says the county will oppose abortions, except those necessary to save the life of the mother.”
It claims that abortions can legally occur in Illinois past the point of viability — a standard set forth by a 1992 Supreme Court Ruling. Under current law, abortions past viability are only possible under a doctor’s direction to preserve the life and health of a woman, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which describes itself as “a leading research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States and globally.”
When asked about the claim of such late-term abortions, Niemann attributed it to prior Illinois legislation allowing for such abortions, though he wasn’t sure of the actual bill or whether it had become law.
“In Illinois, we have contradictory laws,” said Niemann. “If you kill a pregnant woman, that’s two murders. However, if she has an abortion, it isn’t. It doesn’t make sense.”
Monday’s meeting saw a full room as members of the public sat in on the meeting, with some even speaking out in favor and against the resolution.
“Who do you think you are?’” said Kathleen Miller in opposition to the resolution. “…Not too long ago you were preoccupied with carving out a niche, making up new rules about which laws, passed by elected representatives, that you and a small group of paranoid gun nuts do not want to abide by while purporting to be such patriotic law-abiding citizens. Now you are here again inserting your personal beliefs into settled law. You don’t want women to have a legal, safe medical procedure that you don’t agree with. Know this, a woman does not have an abortion to kill a baby.”
Vallory Kemme then spoke in support of the resolution and cited CDC statistics claiming that in Illinois, abortions are the leading cause of death over heart disease or firearms.
“Thank you so much for having the courage to bring up this sensitive topic and your efforts to protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers,” said Kemme. “There are few priorities higher than protecting innocent life, especially when that life is utterly defenseless.”
Kemme even went on to ask that the board revise the resolution to include that “conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being,” citing an alleged U.S. Senate report in support of the addition.
Luchtefeld read a statement before casting her “no” vote, explaining that out of all the messages she received from the public, about two-thirds were against the resolution.
“I am eternally grateful to the women before me who fought for my rights,” said Luchtefeld. “I will continue to defend those rights for women and girls.”
Monday’s vote comes after the board initially presented a similar resolution last month that also passed the legislative committee 8-1.
But Chairman Jim Niemann pulled that resolution from the May board meeting after receiving “several phone calls offering input.”
And as Niemann explained in a separate interview following Monday’s board meeting, the resolution actually underwent a third revision with changes being made up until an hour before the meeting.
“As late as 3 p.m. this afternoon I was still working on it,” said Niemann.
Compared to the original resolution last month, the new sanctuary resolution corrects typos in the title, a duplication in one section and removes and adds certain language.
For instance, the original resolution included the section, “Whereas, a developing embryo has all the features of a human being and experiences feelings at 10 weeks after conception.” In its place, the new resolution adds, “Whereas, the Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the United States of America, states; ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (meaning mankind: man, woman and child) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Life being the first of these rights…”
Language acknowledging “certain medical conditions” may occur endangering both the life of the mother and fetus, requiring a decision to “save one of the two lives” was also added.
When asked about the deletion and addition of the above sections, Niemann said it was in an effort to clean up the resolution and omit items that are already known and accepted, including one section that stated there are “many methods of preventing unwanted pregnancy (that) are available…”
“I didn’t want it to be too wordy,” said Niemann. “While I think they are relevant, I don’t think they added support to the resolution itself.”
The resolution states that “the practices of the Effingham County government will reflect this resolution until such time that acceptable proof of when life begins is scientifically determined beyond a reasonable doubt…”
But unlike a separate “gun sanctuary” resolution that the county approved in April, Monday’s resolution has no legal authority as explained by Effingham County State’s Attorney Bryan Kibler.
“It’s a little different than with firearms where I have prosecutorial discretion whether to charge it,” said Kibler. “They (an abortion provider), as long as they operate under Illinois law, could ….We cannot prohibit a facility like that as long as it follows Illinois law.”
Contact Keith Stewart at email@example.com or 217-347-7151, ext. 132.