In front of packed chambers at Lehi City Hall, Mayor Mark Johnson with unanimous support from the City Council signed a proclamation declaring that “all human life, regardless of age including fetal or elderly life, and those who may be mentally or physically impaired, must always be safeguarded and that society must protect those who cannot protect themselves.”
The proclamation to name Lehi a “Sanctuary City for the unborn” was sponsored by Councilwoman Paige Albrecht and Councilwoman Katie Koivisto. The principal intent for the proclamation was to express support for anti-abortion legislation; the action of signing the proclamation provided no official legal implications or commitments from Lehi City.
“Over the years, Lehi City Council has supported several proclamations that reflected our history as a family-friendly community. In the past few months, I’ve received a number of emails from citizens requesting that we have this discussion on the agenda, and public comment at the meeting was overwhelmingly in favor of it,” said Councilwoman Paige Albrecht.
The polarizing topic filled the room with an overwhelming group of supporters, many wearing yellow to identify themselves. Leading the charge and speaking first was Merrilee Boyack, Chairwoman of Abortion-Free Utah and recently announced candidate for Utah House Representative District 56. “You have the chance today to stand against the terrible cowardice that has gripped our nation. To stand unequivocally that you value all human life,” said Boyack.
Although there was a line of speakers to support the proclamation, two residents stepped up to the podium and spoke to oppose it.
“I come from a conservative religious family. I was pro-life for most of my life until I got married at the age of 25 and realized the issue was far more complicated than I could have ever imagined before that,” said Sarah Blatter. Blatter said her intention of speaking to the Council was not to argue the merits of abortion legislation but to rather express her opinion that the City doesn’t have the resources or time to get involved in abortion or family planning. After Blatter spoke, Mayor Johnson clarified that the proclamation doesn’t include any City resources. Blatter returned to her seat and several more citizens spoke. Blatter quietly exited the chambers when another member of the public was speaking. Councilwoman Koivisto exited the bench and pursued Blatter to speak to her in the lobby.
Including Blatter, the only other opponent of the proclamation was Wes Davey, who recently moved to Lehi from Minnesota. “I vehemently oppose quoting [in the proclamation] the “American Academy of Pediatrics. There are only 50-200 members in all of the United States, and it is defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group,” said Davey. “I would hope that you would take that out. They not only advocate against all abortion; they also oppose gay and lesbian people adopting children. That really bothers me that an organization like that would be quoted here,” concluded Davey.
Many supporters of the proclamation stood at the podium to thank the Council and share appreciation for their courage and willingness to speak in support of “defending all life.”
After public comment, each Councilmember proclaimed support for the proclamation with Councilwoman Albrecht and Councilman Hancock sharing personal stories around their children and the health struggles they faced during pregnancy, which could have ended in abortion but gratefully didn’t.
“I am so much in support of this,” Councilman Mike Southwick said. “Even if by doing this proclamation it’d only save the life of one person, that one person’s life is definitely worth it.”
When reached for comment about the proclamation, Councilwoman Koivisto said, “I would like to echo Mayor Johnson’s final comments during Tuesday night’s council meeting. He cautioned that everyone should first treat each other with respect and work to understand their position. He also cautioned about our emotions being pushed to either fringe of this critical debate. I am a supporter of the elderly, the disabled, and the unborn. At the end of the day, we can agree to disagree, and that’s okay. These types of discussions are needed, and I’m grateful for the residents who have been cultivating positive, constructive conversations with me this past week.”
Lehi joins the nearby cities of Highland and Riverton to pass anti-abortion proclamations. Utah County also passed a similar resolution in 2019.