London residents unhappy with council’s vote against abortion ban

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(Posted Dec. 7, 2021)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Several London residents attended the Dec. 2 London city council meeting to express their disapproval of council’s Nov. 18 decision to vote down legislation calling for an abortion ban in the city.

Had it passed, the legislation would have prevented anyone from procuring or performing abortions within city limits and would have declared London to be a sanctuary city for the unborn.

“Despite the fact that legal concerns had been addressed and despite the overwhelmingly positive testimony of actual London residents, as opposed to the out-of-town activists, you took the coward’s way out,” resident Danielle Fredette said to council at the Dec. 2 meeting.

“Your gutless choices regarding the handling of this issue have not gone unnoticed, and I am extremely disappointed and intend to be a lot more active on this and other city issues in the future, including searching for and advocating for better and more courageous candidates for our city council.”

Resident Elizabeth Branson said she attended several meetings at which the legislation was discussed and was surprised council members who claim to be pro-life voted against it.

“How can the fear of lawsuits overshadow the decision for life? How can you put a price tag on a human baby? If you believe in Jesus Christ and know your Bible, that is not an option,” Branson said. “Only if politics and hypocrisy come into play can you choose pro-choice over life. I urge each one of you to examine your heart, and perhaps in the future, by God’s grace and intervention, this will all turn around. After all, you were elected by we, the people.”

Resident Lacey Smith commented, “You decided to appease the anti-life crowd and to be done with all the pressure and drama that came with this. How cowardly.”

Carla Blazier, one of five council members who voted against the abortion ban, countered some of the residents’ comments regarding lack of bravery. She noted that she had spent 44 years as a fire fighter and 42 years as a paramedic, facing dangerous situations. She noted that she asked questions of people on both sides of the abortion ban issue.

“I’ve always tried to do the best for the people of London in all my careers, including my career as an emergency room nurse now,” Blazier said. “And that’s what I felt I did with my vote. If that’s gutless and (cowardly), then that’s your opinion.”

Council member Rich Hays also took issue with the comments about cowardice, making reference to his time as a police officer and his military service during the Vietnam War.

“Don’t ever tell me that I am gutless, or I don’t have the manhood. I don’t want to ever hear it. You people don’t know me,” he said, adding that he prays the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe vs. Wade decision to at least some degree.

“Better for the (federal) government to take care of it, and then the state to take care of it, than for the city council to take care of it,” he said.

Brendan Shea, president of Madison County Right to Life, argued against council president Henry Comer’s comments from the Nov. 18 meeting that the proposed abortion ban received only a “sprinkling of support.”

Shea pointed out that 75 London residents and other area residents held a march for life prior to council’s Oct. 7 meeting at which council member Anthony Smith introduced the proposed legislation. He noted that most of those who marched attended the meeting and 23 of them addressed council, speaking in favor of the abortion ban.

After reviewing meeting minutes and other public records, Shea said he found that 32 London residents registered opinions with council in favor of the ban. He said he found that 22 London residents registered opinions with council in opposition to the ban. He acknowledged that individuals who live outside of London sent emails to council opposing the ban.

“With all due respect, you don’t represent people in Columbus or Cleveland or California. You represent the citizens of London,” Shea said. He then asked Comer to retract his comments regarding the amount of support the proposed legislation received.

Resident Michael Norman, who opposed the legislation because he thought it could not be enforced, said he understood the comments of Shea and others regarding the amount of local support for the ban. Norman attended several of the meetings at which the legislation was discussed.

“I felt… that I was the underdog in most of those meetings. I felt that being against this, I was the underdog,” he said.

Comer said he would be willing to consider retracting his comments about levels of support, but said his issue is not knowing for sure who all was for or against the ban at the various meetings. He added that the bottom line is that, as a statutory city, London does not have the authority to bring forth or enforce such legislation.

Some residents said they were surprised council opted to vote on the legislation on the second reading, rather than letting it go for a third reading. Council voted 6-1, with Smith casting the “no” vote, to suspend the three-reading rule in order to vote on the legislation at the Nov. 18 meeting.

“Definitely feels like a low blow to get the early vote ‘no.’ Seems like we had a lot of people in the community on board. It just got shot down,” said resident Luke Plageman.

Council member Hays asked Mayor Patrick Closser to address the perception some people might have that council members met with Closser and planned the vote prior to the Nov. 18 meeting.

“No one spoke to me about this legislation except for some of the basic stuff that was talked with the law director,” Closser said.

Closser was unable to attend the Nov. 18 meeting, so he prepared a recorded statement that was played during the meeting. In it, he said he was confident council would do what’s right for the city and mentioned a vote.

“When I gave my speech, the reason I said what I said is because of the feeling I got being in the meetings–all the committee meetings –where they said, ‘We’re not going to have this die in committee. We want to bring it back. We’re going to take it to a vote.’ ”

Closser also stated at the Dec. 2 meeting that he had not spoken to representatives from pro-choice groups or council members about the proposed legislation.

“When that was brought up about myself colluding with other people, there’s no truth to that, and that was a false statement made by a council member,” he said.

Council member Smith countered, “I never stated that any council member colluded with the mayor for this legislation.”

Smith said he found it interesting that, at the Nov. 18 meeting, he was the only council member who was surprised when the rule suspension vote was brought forward.

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