Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In this article, professor emeritus of government John Finn, a constitutional scholar, examines how anti-abortion and pro-gun “sanctuary” towns popping up across the country are challenging how we understand the power of federal law and its role in the states and the lives of Americans. Finn was also recently interviewed on KJZZ about sanctuary cities (he comes in around 5 minutes).
Sanctuaries protecting gun rights and the unborn challenge the legitimacy and role of federal law
In June 2019, the small Texas town of Waskom declared itself a “Sanctuary City for the Unborn.”
Waskom’s city council passed an ordinance that labels groups – like Planned Parenthood, NARAL and others – that perform abortions or assist women in obtaining them “criminal organizations.”
The ordinance borrows from a similar resolution passed in March by Roswell, New Mexico. Unlike the merely rhetorical Roswell resolution, however, the Texas law bans most abortions within city limits. There are no abortion providers in the town, so it is not clear how the town would enforce the ordinance. It might, perhaps, deter an organization from opening a clinic.
These “sanctuaries for life” join other sanctuaries popping up across the country that challenge federal law and how we understand its power and role in the states and the lives of Americans.
Gun owners’ rights
The rapid rise of anti-abortion sanctuaries has a precedent in the growth of so-called Second Amendment sanctuaries.
Second Amendment sanctuaries are partly a response to proposed “red flag” laws. Such laws authorize state courts to issue emergency protection orders, which allow police to temporarily confiscate firearms from a person who presents a danger to others or themselves.
Second Amendment sanctuaries are a booming business. Five states and at least 75 cities and counties have designated themselves as Second Amendment sanctuaries. They refuse to enforce background checks and to comply with emergency protection orders.