National anti-abortion activist helped craft controversial ordinance in Pueblo
As the debate over abortion rights has dominated state and national politics, Mark Lee Dickson, a pastor from Texas, has been helping towns and cities draft “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinances.
This is his first time he’s been involved in Colorado, where abortions are protected under state law.
He told the Chieftain that people in other Colorado towns have also reached out to him, but the ordinance in Pueblo appears to be the first that has been introduced.
Previous coverage:Anti-abortion ordinance passes first reading at Pueblo City Council
Some of Dickson's recent efforts have come in Hobbs, New Mexico, a town close to the border of Texas that recently passed an anti-abortion ordinance amid rumors of a clinic opening in the town. Abortion is legal in New Mexico.
He’s also helped with a proposed ordinance in Odessa, Texas, that would prohibit “aiding and abetting” someone seeking an abortion.
“Abortionists in Colorado, New Mexico, can't perform abortions on Odessa residents: we'll bring them into Texas courts,” Dickson said.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the legal precedent protecting abortions in June, Dickson continues to travel around the U.S. to help craft ordinances that effectively ban abortions.
Since near-total bans have been passed in some Republican-controlled states, some women needing other reproductive healthcare have reported having difficulty accessing the care they need.
According to Dickson’s Wikipedia page, he identifies as a “36 year old virgin” and attended the insurrection in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, but claims he did not enter the U.S. Capitol.
Pueblo County has voted with the rest of Colorado in rejecting multiple anti-abortion ballot questions over the past two decades, most recently a 22-week abortion ban in 2020.
Dickson claimed that people were misinformed and said that voter fraud exists in Colorado.
City councilmember Regina Maestri introduced the ordinance in Pueblo, which council narrowly approved on first reading Nov. 28. The Pueblo ordinance cites a federal law from 1873 that prohibits sending abortion-related materials through the mail.
Maestri said that local church groups reached out and connected her with Dickson.
He helped write an ordinance that attempts to skirt Colorado’s Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA), a law state legislators passed just before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 50-year precedent of a constitutional right to abortions in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in June.
“We have we have no reason to believe this wouldn't work and we're not afraid of RHEA ... Federal laws trump state statutes,” Dickson said.
The enforcement mechanism for the proposed ordinance is similar to the six-week abortion ban Texas passed in 2021, which Dickson also helped to pass. If Pueblo City Council votes to pass the ordinance, private citizens could sue abortion providers for at least $100,000.
Over 60 towns and cities, many in Texas, have passed anti-abortion ordinances with Dickson’s help, he said. The majority are towns smaller than 10,000 inhabitants — the smallest town that has passed one of these ordinances is Impact, Texas, home to 20 residents — but he’s also helped pass ordinances in towns with more than 100,000 residents, including Lubbock, Texas.
Dickson said that he first became aware of the Pueblo clinic because of his work collecting signatures for an anti-abortion vote in Bellevue, Nebraska, an Omaha suburb. Bellevue is home to a branch of the Clinics for Abortion and Reproductive Excellence, the same organization that is planning to open in Pueblo.
Previous coverage:Abortion clinic coming to Pueblo expects high volume of local and out-of-state patients
Although his activism started in Texas, Dickson has also helped passed anti-abortion ordinances in Nebraska, Ohio, Louisiana and New Mexico. After he traveled to Pueblo on Nov. 28, Dickson said he was going to New Mexico, Minnesota and Nebraska later in the week.
"There's not one city in America that I wouldn't look at. The majority of cities in America don't want abortions," Dickson said.
City council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance Dec. 12.
Anna Lynn Winfrey covers politics for the Pueblo Chieftain. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @annalynnfrey.
This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: National anti-abortion activist helped craft ordinance in Pueblo