I just got back from a city council meeting in Bakersfield, California where a large number of citizens stood up to oppose (and some to support) a proposed ordinance written by a local "pro-life minister" which would, essentially:

--Redefine an "inhabitant" of Bakersfield so as to include fertilized human eggs (and, the way the ordinance actually reads, homo habilis and earlier forms), and

--Allow an "aggrieved" person to file a $10,000 civil suit against anyone who, in exchange for a consideration (basically, money) "kills" an inhabitant.  Presumably a rapist could be aggrieved enough that his victim was sold a Plan B pill and go after the local Walgreen's.

An ad-hoc Facebook group organized resistance to the measure over the past week or so.  Dive below the Orange Cotton Boll for the outcome.

First off, for Bakersfield the meeting was exceedingly calm and even-handed.  The mayor even extended the time available for presentations when it became clear that there were far more speakers than time had been set aside for.  (Of course with the anti-side going first, had they stuck to the original schedule almost nobody on the pro-side would've been heard.)  Only three minutes per speaker was allowed.

I would estimate that attendance was two-to-one against the ordinance, which was written so broadly that legal opinion said it might be applied to pharmacists dispensing Plan B; doctors dealing with Do Not Resuscitate orders, and even policemen who shot and killed suspects (not a rare occurrence for Bakersfield, alas).

My bias may be showing, but the charge against the ordinance seemed well-represented with a mixture of retired doctors patiently explaining the facts of life (an embryo is not a person, and has only a percentage chance of becoming one); a young woman who suggested that her abortion after a tumultous relationship was largely responsible for her current status as the mother of a two-year-old and a straight-A college student; and several suggesting that the city did NOT have large amounts of unallocated tax revenue sitting around to defend against the inevitable court challenges.

One particularly eloquent opponent praised the intention of the measure's author while pointing out to the Council that while saving life may be a moral and worthwhile thing to do, "if you choose to do so by sacrificing liberty you are not a moral person."

Two local attorneys gave their opinion that the ordinance as written would not pass judicial review and one said she "[doesn't] even think that it meets their [the proponents] goals."

Then came the pro-side, who numbered by my rough count about half the opposition.  (Oddly enough, the writer of the measure himself did not speak in favor of it--I assume he put his two cents' worth in through back channels.)  

For the most part, they made our legal case for us, arguing to the "Christians" on the board to support the measure, one saying that "we all have the same god" (and pointing out that she meant Catholics too.)  The Declaration of Independence was heavily cited, along with the "right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" passage.  One retired professor who insisted on the title "doctor" made the comparison to Nazi Germany (which, of course, outlawed abortion...but let's not intersperse facts into the conversation.)

For me the highlight of the evening was one of the pro-resolution speakers who urged passage because the proposed resolution was carefully drafted with legal advice and , quote, "might possibly stand legally."

No action was to be taken tonight, and the ordinance as written may have been dead before the hearing.  (The threat of ACLU intervention can do that to an elected official, and reportedly the City Counsel had told them the same thing.)  It may come back in a neutered form as some sort of vaguely "pro-life" resolution by the City Council without any of the specifics the anti-abortion, anti-birth-control crowd wanted.  I'll be back for the August meeting to see.

Originally posted to Randomfactor on Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 08:06 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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