"There is not an alderman who will support it,” the mayor says.
Former Mayor Dan Rowden addressed the board of aldermen during the June 22 meeting, pleading for support for the ordinance that would create Wright City a “sanctuary city for the unborn.”
Rowden received an email from Alderman Ramiz Hakim on June 19 stating he would not sponsor the ordinance to ban abortion and would encourage his fellow aldermen to do the same. Hakim also sent the email to The Warren County Record.
In that email, Hakim wrote that he thought the ordinance “appears to be somewhat redundant.”
“It seems to me that the primary effect of this ordinance would be to make a political and religious statement, rather than to bring about substantive change in the lives of our citizens,” Hakim wrote.
Rowden addressed the aldermen during the public commenting section of the June 22 meeting, stating he wanted to “clear up” his stance.
“I’ve served in the city for a long time and I don’t do political,” he said, visibly emotional at points during his comments. “What I did strongly say in the statements that I made was that we need to protect the innocent and the unborn. That’s my whole purpose.”
At the June 8 meeting, when Rowden first addressed the board, three other men also spoke. Two of those speakers directly reference the Bible during the meeting. The third referred to abortion as part of a liberal agenda.
Rowden also took issue with the idea that the ordinance would be “redundant.”
“The downside to that is there are already a number of initiative petitions being filed in the state to overturn the state statute. That is one of the reasons to need this ordinance,” Rowden said.
Abortion has been completely banned in Missouri since June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed a right to an abortion anywhere in the country, that same day. Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, the only facility in Missouri that provided abortions was in St. Louis.
There have been multiple petitions sent to the Missouri secretary of state’s office that would give residents the opportunity to vote on adding abortion rights to the state constitution. Polling from November 2022 showed that 50 percent of likely voters said they disagreed with the overturning of Roe v. Wade and another 16 percent were unsure. A measure only needs a simple majority of votes to pass.
Rowden finished his comments by again asking for support from the other three aldermen.
“Is there anyone else on the board who would step forward and sponsor this ordinance?”
No alderman did.
“I will not,” Alderwoman Kerry Owens said. “I, too, care very much for the unborn, but I don’t think that legislation is the way to go about this.”
She then listed off her issues with the Missouri heartbeat law and brought up a religious concern.
“Even though you didn’t mention religion, there are other religions where abortion can be a protected right, and where they don’t believe that life begins at conception,” Owens said. “I think those religions also need to be protected.”
According to an article from the Pew Research Center published in 2016, conservative Judaism, the U.S. Presbyterian Church, Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalists, and the United Church of Christ support abortion rights with few or no limits. The Episcopla Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and United Methodist Church support abortion rights with some limits.
Islam, Buddhism, the National Baptist Convention and Orthodox Judaism are listed as having no clear position.
Hakim also responded to Rowden’s comments in an effort to clarify the email. Hakim was present at the meeting via video conferencing.
“I have nothing but the utmost respect for you,” he said. “My email to you was in the vein of you being the spokesperson for this ordinance and was not geared directly toward you or your words. You have not invoked any of the topics that you outlined, but others did and that was the reasoning for the wording in my email.”
Current Wright City Mayor Michelle Heiliger also addressed Rowden’s comments.
“This is an emotional and it’s a difficult topic for everyone, but at this point the board doesn’t feel like we’re in a place where we need to be legislating this,” she said. “It’s been legislated by the state of Missouri and everybody has their own thoughts … but at the end of the day, we have to decide if this is something Wright City should be legislating and at this time there is not an alderman who will support it.”
Rowden declined further comment on the issue.
Sixty-seven cities in the United States, none in Missouri, have declared themselves to be “sanctuary cities for the unborn,” though two of those cities have since repealed the ordinance. Eleven cities have considered the ordinance and rejected it.
According to the “sanctuary cities for the unborn” website, Wright City was the first city in Missouri to consider the ordinance.
About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at email@example.com
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here