Citing the possibility of the United States Supreme Court reversing its decision in Roe v. Wade, Marion County commissioners moved one step closer in approving a resolution to declare the county as a “sanctuary for life.”
The resolution was presented during Tuesday’s meeting of the Marion County Commission by Commissioner Carl Zalak, who represents District 4.
“I believe that Marion County will be a place where you can leave a newborn or an infant in a safe place and we as a community, together, will take care of that baby,” said Zalak.
Despite ultimately agreeing and reminding each other that the board was unanimously “pro-life,” commissioners had a heated debate about the language in resolution as it was presented.
“Based on the way it’s presented today, what exactly is this going to do for our county and our citizens? What does this change? We are a pro-life board, and we do not have an abortion clinic in Marion County. I’m just questioning, what is this going to accomplish, other than it’s a resolution,” asked Commissioner Michelle Stone.
“This resolution cannot prevent abortions. We have to understand the limitations on what a county can and cannot do. Obviously, Marion County is a non-charter county within the state of Florida, so it’s subject to the constitution and laws of the state of Florida, and the state of Florida, under the supremacy clause, is subject to to the federal government and the federal Constitution,” said Marion County Attorney Matthew Minter.
Minter went on to explain that with the legal precedent established by Roe v. Wade, there was nothing the county could do that would carry legal weight.
“Under the Roe v. Wade decision, the pre-born or the unborn, whichever phrase you want to use, are not persons. Therefore, under the federal or state constitution, the preborn are not protected by the Constitutional rights that we typically think of as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” explained Minter.
Minter suggested that since the commission was limited in what it could do to prevent or prohibit abortions, and that it would have to be clear if it sought to “defend or promote” anything that would not hold up legally.
“If we are going to ‘defend or promote,’ I think the reasonable question is ‘what exactly are we going to do to promote,'” said Minter. “Either you would include that in this or at some point in time you’d have to make a decision on exactly what you’re going to practically do to promote those interests. Otherwise, this would be a proclamation.”
Bryant suggested that the board reword and restate its position and delay approval of a resolution until after the “ruling that is expected to come about,” referring to the Supreme Court possibly reversing the Roe v. Wade decision by year’s end.
Although the board ultimately agreed in philosophy, their disagreements in execution and wording were obvious.
“I am definitely not about giving any sort of shrinery to a position that someone would think that perhaps they could leave a preborn child. In their mind ‘Sanctuary for the preborn, I had this baby before the due date, is this a safe place that I can leave my baby out in the open?’ I can’t do that. I won’t do that. I won’t support that sort of plaque,” said Stone, referring to section 2 of the resolution. That section provided for the creation of a commemorative plaque to be placed on government property to declare the county a “Sanctuary for Pre-Born Children.”
Stone went on to suggest that although it was “sickening,” federal law deemed otherwise and commissioners had to uphold it.
“Today we don’t have the right to enforce anything. If somebody wants to open, I hate to even say it, an abortion clinic in Marion County, they have the right to do that. And we can’t take that away. It’s sickening, but that is the honest law of the land. And we swore an oath to uphold the law of the land,” said Stone, indicating that she was in favor of a more detailed resolution that was more than just “stating that we are pro-life” again.
Commissioner David Moore disagreed, issuing a plea to pass the resolution to go on record as being “first in the state.”
“I would like to move this today, and then we can come back and modify it and tweak it. I’d like to go ahead and pass this today so we’re on record being the first in the state of Florida,” said Moore.
Although Bryant indicated that the commission would not break precedent to pass a resolution, Moore suggested that the commission had previously rushed to approve animal and noise ordinances in the past.
“I beg to differ, yes we do. Either you’re pro life, or you’re not,” said Moore.
After making the comment, Bryant abruptly called for a recess and upon returning, Moore issued an apology.
“I’m very passionate about life,” said Moore. “I did not mean to disrespect any of my fellow commissioners. I just see it as a black-and-white thing. There’s no shades of gray with life. So that’s where I come from, I come from very passionate. I did not mean any offense to my fellow commissioners. All of this board is 100 percent pro-life,” said Moore.
“I want to make sure that everyone in here understands what we’re trying to do here. Commissioner Stone, what she’s asking, is she wants to make sure that there’s not an expectation from passing something that wouldn’t have some expectations. And also trying to make sure that, I don’t think there’s anyone on this board that’s not in agreement and would not like to pass a resolution, but I think that we want to make sure that we get it right. That’s all that we’re saying, and we’re trying to have a discussion to make sure that it says the things that the entire board would like to say,” concluded Bryant.
Stone added that the board should seek a resolution that “defines what we’re doing to advocate and promote life within our community versus not.”
Commissioners ultimately agreed to bring back a resolution with different wording.