Encinitas council backs mayor’s resolution to support state abortion rights ballot measure

The downtown Encinitas sign.
(Charlie Neuman / San Diego Union-Tribune/Zuma Pre)

Catholic priest from local parish calls action ‘needlessly divisive’


Encinitas City Council members unanimously agreed to back Mayor Catherine Blakespear’s request Wednesday, Oct. 19, to support Proposition 1, a ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to guarantee a woman’s right to an abortion and contraceptives.

Blakespear, a Democrat who is running against Republican Matt Gunderson for the 38th Senate District, said she put the item on the council’s agenda because she is a passionate supporter of a woman’s right to make her own “fundamental decisions” about her life. She said she thought the city’s elected officials ought to weigh in on the issue now, given the Supreme Court’s historic decision in June that overturned Roe v. Wade and upended nearly 50 years of legal protection for abortion rights.

However, nearly all of the some two dozen people who spoke during public comment on the item said they opposed the ballot measure and believed Blakespear’s request was simply a political stunt. They contended that she had no business asking the council to weigh in on a moral issue, saying it was completely unrelated to typical city business.

The Rev. James Bahash, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church of Encinitas, said Blakespear was being “needlessly divisive” and actively working against the wishes of thousands of the city’s residents. Calling Proposition 1 an “assault on the sanctity of life,” Bahash said Blakespear was forcing council members to take a stance on a very controversial ballot measure.

Blakespear countered that the council often weighs in on moral issues — everything from homelessness to whether to fly the Pride flag — and said other North County cities also are debating their position on the ballot measure.

None of the four council members said they had any issues with Blakespear’s request.

“Frankly, this is one of those things that it’s time to stand up,” said Councilmember Tony Kranz, who was baptized as a Catholic and said he now considers himself a “lapsed Catholic.”

Kranz said one of the key reasons he no longer considers himself a practicing Catholic is the church’s position on abortion, which he said even many active church members don’t support. Many Catholics, including President Biden, support a woman’s right to choose whether to give birth, Kranz said. His comments drew boos from audience and one person called out, “Murderer.”

It was abundantly clear Wednesday, Oct. 19, that the subject was a “highly charged” personal issue, Councilmember Kellie Hinze said, adding, “That’s one of the reasons I support the right to choose.”

Hinze added that she had just given birth to a daughter this summer and worried that Supreme Court’s ruling left her daughter with “less freedoms and fewer rights than her grandmother.”

Councilmember Joy Lyndes said she’d recently been on a women’s rights walk and thought the government shouldn’t be making personal decisions for women.

And, Councilmember Joe Mosca said he was proud the council was taking a stand on the issue, saying he thinks they are “on the right side of history.” Council members need to take a position given the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, he said. For years, many people said Roe v. Wade would never be overturned and that gave people a false sense of security, he added.