SAN MARCOS — San Marcos City Council members and some members of the community clashed last Tuesday over a resolution urging local voters to support Proposition 1, which would codify rights to reproductive freedom in the California Constitution.
Councilmembers Randy Walton and María Nuñez brought forward the resolution on Tuesday, which stated the city’s support for the state measure and commitment to protecting reproductive freedom and urged local voters to vote yes on their ballots in November.
Proposition 1 seeks to expand the right to privacy definition in the state Constitution to include the right to an abortion and to use or refuse contraception, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of landmark federal abortion protections under Roe v. Wade that had been in place for nearly half a century.
“Although California law provides meaningful protections for reproductive rights today, the Dobbs opinion highlights how California will no longer be able to rely on longstanding federal protections that existed under Roe,” Walton said, referring to the Dobbs v. Jackson case before the Supreme Court which ultimately led to the overturning of federal abortion protections. “All cities should take a position on laws that affect their residents.”
Nuñez and Walton’s resolution was ultimately rejected by fellow council members, who voted 3-2 to table the resolution indefinitely. They insisted that taking a stance related to abortion was outside the council’s purview.
Mayor Rebecca Jones, who is running against Walton in her re-election bid this November, called the measure “divisive” and told the public it “seeks to influence your personal vote.”
“The agenda item tonight does not follow our legislative platform. It is not a decision that we have any authority over,” Jones said. “We are a nonpartisan body, one that must always work to serve each resident to the best of our abilities despite our differences, and doing so in a fair, honest and inclusive manner.”
Councilmembers Sharon Jenkins and Ed Musgrove said they believed the issue should be left to voters to decide.
Public commenters were split in their opinions about the resolution. Several residents urged the city to speak out in support of reproductive rights, others shared pro-choice sentiments but felt the council should stay out of the topic of abortion, and others claimed that Proposition 1 itself is dangerous.
“The repeal of Roe will not decrease abortions; it will only serve to decrease safe ones. I and the majority of women in our community would love to live in a community that supports women and their health care choices,” said resident Kathy Steel. “Although the council can’t do anything legislatively, affirming the women in our community would be meaningful to us.”
Wendy Matthews, a former San Marcos planning commissioner, said she believed this kind of resolution was outside of the council’s sphere of duties as elected officials.
“It feels like the City Council is kind of going off the rails,” Matthews said. “Just please do your jobs.”
The city’s 2022 Legislative Platform, referenced by Jones, outlines focused advocacy goals for the City Council when considering whether to support specific legislation. This framework allows the council to address issues directly related to city services and says the city should generally avoid addressing social or international issues with no direct local relation.
While the city’s legislative platform has health care goals, they are limited to supporting specific reforms to the Affordable Care Act.
Nuñez argued that, as a health care issue, the matter of reproductive rights is highly pertinent to the city’s residents. She gave the example of the council becoming involved in COVID-19 efforts over the past two years.
“This is an issue that directly impacts our residents — this is a health and safety issue. I know this even more certain today because we’re still in a pandemic,” Nuñez said. “Part of as a city what we needed to decide was what our involvement, what our response was going to be to this horrific pandemic.”
Twenty-six states have enacted abortion restrictions of various levels since the matter of abortion was returned to the state level, from total bans to bans on abortions after six weeks from the last menstrual period, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
California state law currently protects abortions up until viability — between 24 and 26 weeks of pregnancy — with exceptions when the health or life of the mother is at risk.