PRINSBURG — City council members in Prinsburg made it clear on Friday that they are unwilling to subject the small community to legal and other challenges that could result from the passage of an ordinance allowing residents to bring civil lawsuits against abortion providers.
In a unanimous vote, council members voted to reject an ordinance proposed by State Assemblyman Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, to allow civil lawsuits against abortion providers. Council members Mitch Swart and Greg Bonnema introduced the motion at a special meeting called Friday afternoon.
The vote came without discussion or comment, but before the council heard the motion to reject the ordinance, Mayor Roger Ahrenholz outlined the challenges the city would likely face if it were enacted.
The mayor said the city received a letter from Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison noting that the proposed ordinance was unconstitutional in Minnesota.
The mayor also noted that the city’s legal counsel has not provided city council members with case law or legal opinions to refute the attorney general’s position on the proposed ordinance.
In a Nov. 23 letter to the city of Prinsburg, Ellison stated, “Any city ordinance that restricts the basic rights of pregnant Minnesotans to an abortion is unconstitutional.”
The proposed regulation states that “life begins at conception” and describes abortion as “an act of murderous violence…”
Miller, a Prinsburg resident, submitted the proposed regulation to the Prinsburg City Council on November 15. The mayor said council members had brought up a discussion with the intention of bringing it up at a special session.
He said council members and citizens in the community were later surprised to be “put in the spotlight” due to media coverage of the proposal.
Miller watched the council vote on Friday afternoon and said afterwards that he was disappointed. He said he will continue to work with other municipalities in the state that are interested in a similar ordinance.
It was originally adopted by communities in Texas. However, the ordinance is not in apparent conflict with Texas law, as that state has effectively banned abortion with one narrow exception.
Miller works with Pro-Life Ministries of St. Paul in a position he accepted just before announcing this year that he would not seek re-election to the Minnesota legislature.
He said he was confident Prinsburg would reconsider the regulation at some point.
The proposed regulation was drafted for Prinsburg by attorney Jonathan Mitchell of the Thomas Moore Society, a pro-life organization. Miller said Mitchell and the Thomas Moore Society offered to help Prinsburg defend against legal challenges.
Miller said he believes Ellison — like Prinsburg’s counsel — is wrong that the ordinance cannot be legally maintained in Minnesota.
Miller remains committed to getting it adopted. “There are people who need to be defended,” he said.
Though there is no medical facility in Prinsburg, the ordinance could be used to file civil lawsuits against abortion drug providers or mobile abortion clinics that might visit the community, Miller had told the West Central Tribune. It would allow civil lawsuits by residents against vendors, and the city would not be a party to any lawsuit, he said.