Linda Verraster can’t imagine why elected officials in San Clemente would spend time debating abortion.
The coastal city of Orange County has no hospitals or clinics that perform abortions, and it has no power to stop residents from seeking the procedure elsewhere. There are other issues that need attention, Verraster says, like homelessness and affordable housing.
Still, an abortion debate has consumed the city and thrust it into the spotlight after Councilman Steve Knoblock proposed making it a “sanctuary for life,” which would make it an abortion-free zone after the US Supreme Court ruled Roe vs Wade .
Knoblock’s proposal, which is largely symbolic, has angered residents across the political spectrum, including some of his Conservative peers as well as abortion-rights supporters like Verraster.
On Saturday, the Council will consider removing the proposal from its agenda for the August 16 meeting.
“It’s so far off their track that it seems so ridiculous that they would bring up something so controversial,” said Verraster, 68, a registered nurse and Democrat who has lived in San Clemente for nearly three decades.
Orange County’s southernmost city, with its Spanish-style architecture and famous surf culture, has the vibe of a laid-back beach town.
San Clemente also has an enduring reputation as a conservative bastion, even as much of Orange County has become more politically diverse.
Last year, the San Clemente City Council declared it a Second Amendment Freedom City.
But Knoblock’s proposal, a draft of which was published last week, went too far — even for some anti-abortionists. It states that life begins at conception and opposes the establishment of clinics offering abortions.
Council members were inundated with emails from residents confused by the document’s religious slant and angered that their government is weighing what many see as a personal health issue. Some residents plan to hold a rally near the San Clemente pier next week to voice their concerns.
No matter what happens in San Clemente, state officials continue to protect abortion rights in heavily Democratic California.
“This is really a chest tap exercise,” said Fran Sdao, 69, a resident of Mission Viejo. “We live in California. That means nothing in California. It’s just a waste of paper.”
In an interview with The Times, Knoblock said zoning and permitting could be possible tools to keep abortion clinics off the city.
Knoblock said he wanted to send a message to the rest of California that “we think life matters and we think 60 million unborn babies killed in the womb is a sad thing and shouldn’t continue.” .”
Knoblock has a history of proposals that many see as outside the purview of local government.
In 2008, he proposed that the council declare its support for Proposition 8, a statewide ballot measure that would have banned same-sex marriages. He failed to get enough support from his peers.
That same year, Knoblock successfully lobbied for the phrase “In God We Trust” to be placed on the city’s logo.
Knoblock’s stance on abortion is at odds with the majority of Californians — and Orange County residents — who support access to the procedure.
According to a poll this year by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, 76% of likely voters in the state said they didn’t want Roe vs. Wade tipped. In Orange County, support lagged only slightly as 69% of likely voters opposed repealing the nearly 50-year-old constitutional precedent.
A proposed parenting clinic in Mission Viejo — the closest to San Clemente — had more than 22,000 medical visits last year. It’s unclear how many of those visits were abortions, although the organization said the procedure accounts for a fraction of the services it provides.
“This resolution is an example of an extreme politician who serves on the council and is basically trying to advance a personal agenda that doesn’t reflect the views of his constituents,” said Robert Armenta, senior vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties.
Knoblock’s colleagues on the Republican-majority San Clemente City Council called his proposal an exaggeration.
Councilwoman Kathy Ward called the proposal “ridiculous” and said in an email to the Times that she “does not take up issues that are not city issues”.
Councilwoman Laura Ferguson said she believes in a woman’s right to vote with certain restrictions and believes the council should focus on more pressing issues such as homelessness and pension commitments.
Mayor Gene James, who opposes abortions, said he originally supported a council resolution expressing support for the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. But he said he was “appalled” and “embarrassed” after reading the details that Knoblock drafted.
Ward, Ferguson and James are all Republicans.
“The fact that he has addressed medical issues that none of us are authorized to comment on is disturbing,” James said. “California is a state where abortion is legal, and there’s nothing the San Clemente City Council can do about it, whether we’re pro-life or pro-choice.”
Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan, a Democrat running for state assembly, said Knoblock’s efforts to ban abortion are “extremely and utterly inconsistent with the core values of our community.”
Cheri Lyon, who has lived in San Clemente for 15 years, said she was appalled that Knoblock’s resolution blurred the line between church and state.
The resolution said their intent was “not only to protect life, but also to honor God who gives life.” It goes on to say, “We believe that life is ordained of God and that God is the author and finisher of every life.”
“I read it and thought, ‘What’s happening here?'” said Lyon, 46, who supports abortion rights. “It’s not even filled with an argument that it should be a state matter. It was about God and preserving life. why [Knoblock] thinking this is something the citizens of San Clemente want is very confusing to me.”
Lyon said she is grateful to live in a state whose government is affirming abortion rights but is concerned about what Knoblock’s resolution signals for the future of her city.
San Clemente’s registered voters are 44% Republican, 28% Democratic, and 21% nonpartisan.
The city’s support for conservative candidates and causes goes back decades.
In the 1970s, Richard Nixon sought refuge after Watergate at his beachfront mansion in San Clemente, known as the “Western White House”.
In 2020, San Clemente was the scene of a public mask burning on the pier, led by Alan Hostetter, a resident who was later criminally charged for his alleged role in the January 6 riot. Knoblock and Hostetter shared the stage at a Donald Trump rally in the city in 2020.
American flags and banners celebrate the US Marine Corps Pepper Houses in San Clemente, which is about 20 miles north of Camp Pendleton.
Lawn signs for liberal candidates and gay and transgender pride flags are also appearing more frequently around the city these days.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-06/abortion-sanctuary-city-proposal-is-a-bridge-too-far-for-many-in-orange-county Abortion ‘sanctuary’ is too far for some in San Clemente