On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, with President Joe Biden in office only 24 hours, he and Vice President Kamala Harris issued a statement unequivocally supporting the “right to choose” abortion. The Biden-Harris administration announced it was “deeply committed to making sure everyone has access to … reproductive health care regardless of … zip code.”1
Pro-life leaders across the country took the declaration as a rallying cry to prevent new abortion clinics from being established in their towns. Since January 22, 2021, fourteen American cities have designated themselves as sanctuaries for the unborn.
In recent years, the term “sanctuary” has been adopted by cities as a means of resisting federal laws on immigration or state laws regulating guns. Similarly, pro-life citizens have acted on the impulse to make their cities safe for the unborn. They want to protect unborn babies from abortion at every stage, beyond the protections of any state or federal laws.
This pro-life sanctuary movement had actually been growing steadily since June of 2018 when Effingham County, Illinois, resolved to become a “Sanctuary for the Life of Unborn Human Beings.”
Another early adopter was Roswell, New Mexico, whose town council declared their intention to protect innocent human life in early 2019. They were responding to a statewide bill that would have kept abortion legal even if Roe v. Wade were someday overturned. That bill failed in the state legislature, but Roswell went ahead with their resolution to prefer life over death, affirm adoption, and protect medical professionals who conscientiously object to participating in abortions.2
According to the website Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn, at least 30 cities now call themselves sanctuaries for the unborn. Many are located in Texas and most are very small towns with no abortion clinic. Many of these abortion-free zones are largely symbolic, although physicians’ offices are also prevented from prescribing abortion pills. One major city―Lubbock, Texas―was home to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic until a popular vote made it a sanctuary city in May of 2021.3 That clinic can no longer perform abortions.
Save babies by helping women
Because most sanctuaries for the unborn are tiny towns with populations hovering around 300, they’re also unlikely to be homes to pregnancy care centers. Yet people everywhere can help women avoid abortion—by creating a culture of life, promoting abortion alternatives, and helping women find nearby PCCs. They can support area PCCs financially and serve as volunteers or board members. They can welcome struggling women and families into their churches.
So, beside passing ordinances banning abortions, how well are sanctuary cities doing to help women avoid it? Are all the PCCs within reach of sanctuary cities fully staffed and well-equipped? Only those centers can say for sure. What’s certain is that every sanctuary city can do a lot to help the unborn by helping their mothers.
A brief survey of the thirty cities on the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn website finds that twenty are within 25 miles of at least one pregnancy care center. The farthest distance a woman must travel from a sanctuary city to a PCC is 40 miles.
In contrast, abortion clinics in the region are fewer and farther between. For instance, there are four pregnancy care centers within 50 miles of Joaquin, Texas, while the nearest abortion clinic is 49 miles away in Shreveport, Louisiana. Most abortion clinics in Texas are one hundred or more miles from a sanctuary city. Therefore, the opportunities for making abortion unthinkable to women in sanctuary cities are very great.
The city of Riverton, Utah, population 38,000+, is a good example of a sanctuary city for the unborn that looks out for the needs of women who might consider abortion. Their resolution, adopted May 7, 2019, contains a strong statement against abortion as well as expressions of support for pregnant women. They endorse organizations that help women during pregnancy by:
1. Helping to assure health coverage for pregnant women and newborns.
2. Increasing awareness about the effectiveness, limitations, risks, and availability of abstinence, natural family planning, and access to affordable quality contraception, as well as education about its use and availability.
3. Encouraging support and education for mothers who make an informed decision to parent their child and for community organizations who seek to assist them.
4. Encouraging support for women and men who make an informed decision to place a baby for adoption and for couples seeking to adopt.
5. Providing additional support for single mothers through community organizations, childcare, and other assistance.
6. Protecting pregnant teens, women and single mothers from discrimination. This includes helping to accommodate pregnant women and mothers in schools and workplaces by supporting maternity leave and other necessities.4
Riverton is within 25 miles of two PCCs, with the nearest being 14 miles away; the nearest abortion clinic is 20 miles away in Salt Lake City.
Sanctuary cities are one more way Christians can fight abortion at the local level. As more cities become sanctuaries for the unborn, more moms and families will be helped.
1. Statement from President Biden and Vice President Harris on the 48th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, January 22, 2021; https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/01/22/statement-from-president-biden-and-vice-president-harris-on-the-48th-anniversary-of-roe-v-wade/
2. "Resolution supporting unborn carried by council," Roswell Daily Record, March 16, 2019, https://www.rdrnews.com/2019/03/16/resolution-supporting-unborn-carried-by-council
3. "Lubbock and Evanston: Pro-Life, Slow Death," Human Life Review, June 22, 2021, https://humanlifereview.com/lubbock-and-evanston-pro-life-slow-death/
4. "Utah city council votes to become a sanctuary city for preborn children," Live Action, May 9, 2019, https://www.liveaction.org/news/utah-city-council-sanctuary-preborn-children/