Pueblo, Colorado recently considered an ordinance that would have effectively prevented abortion facilities from operating within city limits. The “Ordinance Requiring Abortion Providers in Pueblo, Colorado to Comply with Federal Law” was brought forward by Pueblo City Councilwomen Regina Maestri and Lori Winner on November 21, 2022. The ordinance recognized that existing “federal law imposes felony criminal liability on every person who ships or receives abortion pills or abortion-related paraphernalia in interstate or foreign commerce, see 18 U.S.C. §§ 1461–62.“
This federal law is the current recognized policy of the United States Post Office, however the Biden administration has not enforced the law. The proposed Pueblo ordinance would have allowed for private enforcement, or civil lawsuits, against any abortion provider in the city that broke the law, or against anyone other than the pregnant woman who aided or abetted an abortion provided breaking the law. In short, the proposed ordinance would have made it financially impossible for an abortion provider to operate within the city of Pueblo.
The idea for local enforceable abortion ordinances started in 2019 with Right To Life of East Texas Director Mark Lee Dickson. Mr. Dickson, along with attorneys, drafted a local ordinance to prevent an abortion facility from moving across state lines into the city of Waskom, Texas. The Supreme Court had not overruled Roe at the time, however that did not stop cities from passing ordinances prohibiting abortion within their jurisdictions. Because the ordinances use private civil enforcement, unlike other attempted abortion bans, the “Sanctuary For The Unborn” ordinances have stood up to judicial scrutiny. The Texas Heartbeat Act, successfully modeled on Mark Lee Dickson’s private civil enforcement sanctuary ordinances, was the sole early pregnancy state abortion ban in effect before Roe was overruled. To date, sixty-two communities and one county have passed local ordinances with a civil enforcement mechanism that prohibit abortion within their city or county limits.
The Pueblo pro-life ordinance passed first presentation in the November 21st Pueblo City Council meeting. Passing first presentation does not make a proposed ordinance law, but moves the ordinance forward for further discussion and review. During the following two weeks, Coloradans mobilized in support of the ordinance, and in opposition to Pueblo’s first abortion facility, operated by late term abortionist LeRoy Carhart. Thousands of calls and emails were made to Pueblo City Council members encouraging them to pass the ordinance and protect Pueblo women and unborn babies from the harm of abortion.
Pueblo City Council held two public work sessions on the proposed ordinance, where they heard expert testimony from both sides. The city initially refused to hear from pro-life experts, however after an attorney from the American Center For Law and Justice explained to the city that this refusal was illegal viewpoint discrimination pro-life experts were allowed to testify at the city’s second work session. Pro-life expert testimony for the ordinance comprised Mark Lee Dickson of Sanctuary Cities For The Unborn, attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell who drafted the ordinance, and local attorney Josh Craddock. Testifying on the pro-abortion side against the ordinance were Parkview Medical Center, the Pueblo City Attorney, and Colorado Representative Daneya Esgar. Representative Esgar was the sponsor of the “Reproductive Health Equity Act” that legalized abortions through pregnancy and abortions after birth in Colorado, and prohibited any abortion restrictions or safety regulations.
On December 12th, hundreds of people lined up outside Pueblo City Hall in wintry conditions. People waited hours in line, registered with the city to get into the city council meeting, and went back outside and waited in the cold again for the opportunity to give public comment on the ordinance. Many more called in and registered to give virtual testimony. After a work session on the ordinance, Pueblo City Council convened the regular meeting with the abortion ordinance on the agenda.
City Council President Heather Graham made a motion to indefinitely table the ordinance before hearing public comment. Council President Graham said, “I would suggest if you want to ban abortion, you take it up with the state legislators, or quite frankly you move out of Colorado, because the city council is not the arena to be bringing this forward.” Pueblo City Council voted 4-3 to permanently table the ordinance without listening to the voices of hundreds of people that had waited for hours to speak.
With the pro-life ordinance tabled indefinitely, Pueblo’s first unregulated abortion facility remains open. The facility, run by notorious late term abortionist LeRoy Carhart, advertised abortions after 27 weeks in Colorado.
Two women have died with complications after receiving abortions from LeRoy Carhart, Christin Gilbert and Jennifer Morbelli. Christin Gilbert, age 19, did not choose the abortion that took her life and the life of her unborn baby. Christin was a young woman with severe down syndrome, brought to LeRoy Carhart for an abortion performed in possible violation of state law and without her consent. In addition to these deaths, at least 28 women are known to have been hospitalized with complications following abortions at LeRoy Carhart’s facilities. LeRoy Carhart remains under investigation in other jurisdictions, and has a pending lawsuit against him for malpractice that is scheduled for trial in 2023.
Our movement for life in the Rocky Mountains doesn’t end at Pueblo. If you want to see a local, enforceable ordinance prohibiting abortion in your Colorado town or city, fill out and return your petition to the Pikes Peak Citizens For Life office or email your petition to email@example.com
You can end abortion in the Rocky Mountains area!