The University Town I Live In Just Became A ‘Sanctuary City for the Unborn’

by Tricia Pal
Scary Mommy and Marcos del Mazo/Getty

I can’t believe that I’m writing this in 2021, but last week I had to vote no on a local ordinance which would declare the university town that I live in a “Sanctuary City for the Unborn.” Essentially, the ordinance would make abortion at any time in pregnancy an act of murder. Already 22 cities in Texas and two in Nebraska have sought to become sanctuary cities. Up until now, the largest of them was Big Spring, TX, with a population of just over 28,000.

Lubbock, TX—a university town known for Texas Tech University, Buddy Holly, and its role as one of the few small cities in rural west Texas—is almost ten times the size of Big Spring, with a population of 258,862. We are now the biggest city in America to pass a “Sanctuary City for the Unborn” law. The biggest question at hand, though, is this: Are those who voted yes really being pro-life, or are they just being pro-birth?

As you drive through our small city, you’ll see hundreds of signs that say “Vote for Life. Vote for the ordinance.” They are at residences, on street corners, at businesses, and at churches. Lubbock is a city that has a big churchgoing population with what feels like a church on every corner. All of these have been imploring their neighbors, patrons, and church members to support the ordinance that would take away the rights of women to decide what to do with their own bodies.

What does voting yes–saying you’re “pro-life”–really mean? Does it mean taking care of a woman who unexpectedly finds herself pregnant and unprepared when it comes to medical resources? What about when it comes to the life of the mother versus the life of the baby—do you need to sacrifice the mother’s life for the child? What about instances of sexual assault where the mental trauma may in fact have negative ramifications for the rest of the mother’s life?

What about after the baby is here? What does voting yes mean then? How are we going to fix our already overtaxed social services sectors where there has been a constant and urgent plea for foster beds, especially since the beginning of Covid? What about those that can’t support their child without resources from the government? What about children who are born into homes and families where they suffer child abuse in life—something that plagues Lubbock county with one of the highest child abuse rates in the state? How are we supporting the life of the baby and mother post-birth and throughout the child’s life?

These are just some of the questions that haunt me as I consider what all the “Vote for Life” signs mean that are splattered across town. Recently, a friend who is a vote yes person posed the same dilemma that she has with what the yes vote means, suggesting that to truly be pro-life means that you have to do something other than vote yes—foster, donate, volunteer—just do something. Although I am the polar opposite of her yes vote, I appreciate that she is calling on those that do vote yes under the assertion that they are pro-life to truly be pro-life and not just pro-birth (and most often because it is religiously expected).

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Tonight, I hold a mailer that I just got from the “Vote for Life” group that says “This is not political—we simply want to protect life. It’s about standing up for defenseless babies and their mothers.”

I can’t help but think, especially as a woman and a mother, that protecting life is about so much more than the hours giving birth. It’s about the access to good medical care for baby and mother leading up to that time. It’s about making sure that the baby is brought into the world with people to care about them who have the resources to support them throughout childhood and set them up for success. It’s about making sure that a child can be properly nourished, clothed, housed, and educated. It’s about supporting the needs of parents and new babies in a country that doesn’t mandate paid maternity or paternity leave. It’s about making sure the mental health of the mother is taken into consideration. It’s about making sure that survivors of sexual assault have a choice in what happens to their bodies.

It honestly makes me think of the episode of “Handmaid’s Tale” where they do a flashback to June asking her husband to sign her prescription for birth control – because women clearly shouldn’t be able to make their own decisions for themselves in our society, but rather need partners, neighbors, community members, and politicians to make decisions for them. Doctors and nurses can’t decide what is best for their patients, even when it is in the best interest of a woman’s life.

Perhaps instead of focusing time, energy, and resources to promote pro-birth initiatives, there should be a push to better educate, support, and help women who may not be ready for a child, and if they bring that child into the world, initiatives to support that child and mother’s lives should be priority.

But it should never be the decision of any other person what is best for me, my life, and my body. Women should have options so that they can decide what is best for them and their bodies. Doctors and nurses should have options so they are not living in fear of legal challenges for providing healthcare needed to save a woman’s life. What works for one woman may not work for another, and it is unrealistic, unsafe, and anti-life to unilaterally decide that every situation is the same and all women must abide by the choices of their neighbors, often without the support necessary to do so in a way that promotes actual life of the woman and child.

I’ve always stood strong in my convictions, but as a mother who excitedly brought a rainbow baby into a happy marriage, I know that I am lucky and I need to not just stand strong, but stand vocally for what is right. I am privileged, and many women don’t have the supports or resources that I do. They may not have a healthy situation to bring a baby into or they may be pregnant as a result of sexual assault.

By being pro-choice, I truly believe that I am supporting life. I am supporting educating our youth on sex and birth control, providing affordable birth control and medical care to women of child bearing years, giving women the opportunity to make an informed choice over her own body. I beg everyone who thinks that a vote to support a Sanctuary City ordinance or other strict abortion laws is voting for life to really think about what it means. If it is just ticking a box on a ballot machine, are you truly pro-life or are you pro-birth? What does supporting life really mean for the baby and mother?

Tonight I voted against an ordinance that passed—by a lot—but I’m not sure those who support it really know what it means. Unless we as a society have the resources and structures in place to support mothers and babies—and not just at birth, but as they grow—then a yes vote isn’t really supporting life. If a mother struggles mentally as a result of being forced to carry a pregnancy, then it isn’t really supporting life. If we are making decisions for others without understanding their unique contexts, it isn’t supporting life. Instead of supporting stricter abortion laws and regulations, we need to get to the heart of the issue of what it means to vote for life.