California Attorney General Rob Bonta has weighed in on a Temecula City Council member’s request that the city consider a ban on abortions, warning that local laws “may not conflict with state laws” and that his office could take legal action against the city.
A Friday, Sept. 23, letter from Bonta’s office to the council states that passing such a resolution would be “void” and illegal.
The letter states that any attempt by Temecula to “limit an individual’s ability to exercise their right to reproductive choice and bodily autonomy would be a violation of state law.”
“Our office will not hesitate to take legal action should a local regulation conflict with California state law,” the letter states.
“The California Legislature and the California Supreme Court have declared time and again that California is a reproductive freedom state and that Californians have a right to access abortion,” the letter reads. “In 1981, the California Supreme Court held that ‘all women in this state rich and poor alike possess a fundamental constitutional right to choose whether or not to bear a child.’”
The Attorney General’s public affairs office Monday, Sept. 26, declined to comment, saying in an email that “we will let the letter speak for itself.”
At a meeting earlier this month, Council Member Jessica Alexander suggested that Temecula be known as a “safe haven, not as an abortion sanctuary.”
Alexander — the director of Temecula’s Birth Choice Center, a local pregnancy resource nonprofit organization — asked her council colleagues to discuss an official resolution at the Tuesday, Sept. 27, council meeting.
“Let’s mark our city as a sanctuary city for Temecula’s unborn,” Alexander said from the dais on Sept. 13, speaking to residents and her fellow council members. “Let the world know that Temecula stands for life, from womb to tomb.”
Discussion of Alexander’s proposal is on the agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting, but there won’t be a vote or decision by the council on whether to implement an abortion ban in the city. The discussion will center on whether to put her proposal on a future agenda.
A “resolution declaring Temecula a sanctuary city for Temecula’s unborn (at the request of Council Member Alexander)” is listed under possible items to be discussed at future council meetings.
According to Temecula’s policy, the city council by a majority vote may choose to:
Refer the item to the city manager with direction to place it on an agenda, do additional research and/or get more information to report back to the council. The council also could give another direction.
Refer the item to a council subcommittee related to the topic of the request for its review and consideration. That panel could place the item on an agenda or report its findings at a future council meeting. The city manager may also share findings in a written update to the council.
Take no action. Without a majority council vote to refer an item under the first two options, the proposed item would not be put on a future agenda.
If a motion follows one of the first two options, it is seconded and approved by a majority vote of the council, the proposal would be handled accordingly by the city manager. If no one seconds the motion, or if it fails for the lack of a majority, no further action would be taken on the request.
A newsletter sent by the conservative 412 Church in Murrieta — which is led by Pastor Tim Thompson, who has defended Alexander’s pro-life proposal — said that the letter was “passively but aggressively directed at Alexander.”
The Attorney General office’s words are “a continuation of California government’s tyrannical insistence on silencing opposing viewpoints,” the newsletter states.
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“Jessica Alexander says she took an oath to protect Temecula’s residents from harm, foreign and domestic, and will continue to fight for the rights of all Californians, born and unborn.”
Alexander asked her colleagues on Sept. 13: “Are we willing to stand up and fight for every resident, including the unborn babies who are voiceless? … In order for change to occur, it takes only one to stand and speak up for truth. Let that one be the city council of Temecula.”
Temecula resident Jeff Pack said that he was concerned about possible lawsuits that an abortion ban resolution could bring to the city. He called Alexander and Thompson’s communication “a concerted effort” to “push a religious and political agenda on the rest of the council by ambushing them.”
“Obviously, this proposed resolution is beyond the bounds of what a city council is tasked with,” Pack said by email. “This is political grandstanding at its finest.”
Tuesday’s meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Temecula City Hall, 41000 Main St.