May 5, 2023

Danville, IL Passes Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance

photo credit: Mark Lee Dickson / Facebook
On the evening of May 2, the city council of Danville, Illinois voted 8-7 to approve a "sanctuary city for the unborn" ordinance. This makes Danville the 67th city in the US (and the first in Illinois) to approve such an ordinance.

Danville Mayor Rickey Williams, Jr. was the tie-breaking vote.

The new ordinance requires compliance with federal statutes known as the Comstock Act. These statutes prohibit the mailing or receiving of abortion-inducing drugs or abortion paraphernalia. The ordinance finds that the 1873 Comstock Act “imposes felony criminal liability on every person who ships or receives abortion pills or abortion-related paraphernalia in interstate or foreign commerce” and that all such acts are “offenses under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.”

Because abortion clinics don't manufacture their own drugs or equipment, this interpretation of the Comstock Act could effectively ban abortion in the United States. Clinics and manufacturers could be subject to criminal liability for mailing drugs and equipment intended to cause abortion.

Danville citizens pushed for the ordinance in response to the Indianapolis abortion business "Clinic for Women" purchasing property there. The business likely intends to flout pro-life Indiana laws by directing women across the Illinois border.

Before the meeting, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and the ACLU of Illinois sent letters to the city council arguing that the ordinance is unlawful under Illinois's 2019 Reproductive Health Act. Additionally, the Illinois Pharmacy Association attended the meeting to argue that the ordinance violates the Illinois Pharmacy Practice Act.

The ordinance argues that Illinois law cannot supersede federal law. Therefore, Illinois law cannot create a right for citizens to perform activities that are considered criminal under the Comstock Act.

Arguments by the Illinois Pharmacy Association caused several council members to fear that the ordinance would negatively impact the health of community members who might need mifepristone, misoprostol, or methotrexate to treat health conditions unrelated to pregnancy or abortion. These concerns were addressed after the meeting by Attorney Jonathan Mitchell.

“This ordinance does nothing to restrict the shipment or receipt of drugs that are used for non-abortion purposes,” Mitchell said. “It remains legal to ship and receive mifepristone and misoprostol if the intended use does not involve abortion.” 

Mitchell is credited as being one of the minds behind Texas's Heartbeat Act, and he has agreed to represent the city and its taxpayers at no cost if the ordinance causes the city to face litigation.