Wednesday, September 14 2022

San Clemente will not move forward with an abortion ban after one of the two council members who proposed the article withdrew his support at an abrupt special meeting on Saturday.

The resolution introduced by Councilman Steve Knoblock would have made the city a “sanctuary for life” and would have prevented the licensing or zoning required for any facility wishing to perform abortions in the city.

Knoblock was the first councilman to speak at the meeting and criticized fellow mayor Gene James, who initially supported the resolution but backed out, saying Knoblock’s work appeared to be written by a ” Taliban court”.

“We have to value life, I know not everyone agrees with that,” Knoblock said. “The suggestion that we have a resolution like this amount to a Taliban tribunal really surprised me. The Taliban kill innocent human beings. Abortion kills innocent human beings. So putting them together is interesting.

“The city weighs in on public policy issues that affect our community. The life and death of babies affects our community.

Nearly 50 residents from across Orange County came to speak at the meeting, with the room so full of people that they locked the doors to keep anyone out, setting up an overflow viewing room with more protesters outside.

People sit inside the council chambers during Saturday’s city council meeting to discuss Councilman Steve Knoblock’s abortion resolution on August 6, 2022. (Omar Sanchez/Voice of OC)

“For more than 10 years, I’ve come to this podium and said the council shouldn’t act on issues it can’t legislate,” said Brad Malamud, a San Clemente resident and attorney who regularly speaks at board meetings. “We didn’t elect you to do this.”

In the end, Knoblock stood alone in defending its resolution, with the rest of the board voting to defeat it by a 3-1 vote.

The majority of people spoke out against the proposed resolution, holding up signs calling for Knoblock and James to step down and criticizing them for what they said was political theater.

“This resolution is a total disgrace. What a total disappointment,” said Courtney, a San Clemente resident who spoke at the meeting. “If you don’t have the dignity to step down, you better believe we’re coming for you and we’ll kick you out when the time comes.”

Several volunteers from the city’s pregnancy resource center spoke at the meeting in support of the resolution, joined by more than a dozen other pro-life residents.

“I’m here to stand up for babies’ lives and babies’ rights,” said a speaker who identified herself as a nurse who volunteered at the center to perform ultrasounds, calling on members of the pro- choice “Sodomites”.

“I’m here to tell you he’s a baby…he has fingers and toes just like you.” I’m proud that you stand up for what’s right,” she continued, speaking to Knoblock. “I’m proud of you for standing up for God.”

Knoblock’s resolution made frequent references to God, prompting concern from public commentators that it was a violation of the separation of church and state.

“We believe that life is ordained by God and that God is the author and finisher of every life. Whether at the beginning or at the end,” the resolution reads. “As a city council, we will protect and sustain life at every step. As we ask God to bless America, we must first honor and respect God.

Although James seconded the motion for discussion in July, he said he had not read it yet and called a special meeting on Saturday to remove the item from the August 16 council agenda.

James apologized for supporting the resolution for discussion at Saturday’s special meeting.

“I’m pro-life, I won’t apologize for that, I can’t apologize for that,” James said. “There are different shades of pro choice and there are different shades of professional life. If this document created by Mr. Knoblock is the litmus test for being pro-life, I am not pro-life.

Councilman Kathy Ward, who has opposed the resolution since it was introduced in July, continued to argue that it was beyond the city’s control.

“We are local elected officials. We are supposed to devote our energies to the operations and orderly development of the city of San Clemente,” Ward said. “Anything above that is beyond our control.”

Councilman Chris Duncan criticized scheduling the meeting on a Saturday with just 24 hours’ notice, but said he agreed with the decision to remove it from the agenda.

“I have to say, echoing some of those comments we’ve heard, the surprise scheduling of this meeting, serves to stifle public participation in this discussion,” Duncan said. “This resolution should never have been approved.”

James said he put the article on a special meeting because he wanted to expedite his removal from the board.

“We rushed in because a lot of you wanted this rushed, to take it off the agenda immediately,” James said. “It wasn’t meant to silence anyone, to tone down anyone’s opinion, it was an attempt on my part to put that behind us.”

Councilwoman Laura Ferguson was not at the meeting, posting on her Facebook page that she had already planned to be out of town with her family whom she could not reschedule with just 24 hours notice.

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and a body member of Report for America, an initiative of Groundtruth. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @NBiesiada.

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