Commentary: Why Riverton’s pro-life sanctuary resolution matters

FILE - In this June 25, 2018 file photo, pro-life and anti-abortion advocates demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, representatives of several national anti-abortion groups met with administration staffers at the White House to discuss how President Donald Trump _ who has supported their agenda _ could continue to be helpful in the changed political circumstances. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The city of Riverton voted last week in favor of a resolution declaring support for the unborn, expressing belief that life begins at conception and voicing opposition to lessening restrictions on abortion.
Detractors were quick to claim that the resolution had no teeth, because it was not an official law or ordinance. It was downplayed as just a bunch of meaningless words on a piece of paper. Yet at the same time many were angry, claiming the city acted irresponsibly and overstepped its bounds. This inherent contradictory response speaks to the power that this resolution truly carries.
Even though no laws were passed, this resolution is more than just hollow words and empty platitudes. It is a line in the sand. A statement. This type of formal endorsement from elected officials carries weight. It brings attention to the movement. It gets people talking. It motivates the community to get involved. It emboldens those who believe in the cause but may have been sitting quietly on the sidelines.
Often those who believe in the sanctity of life are hesitant to get involved for fear of backlash and anger from those who disagree. This brave example from elected city officials can inspire them to overcome those fears.
Roswell, N.M., recently passed a similar resolution, and more cities are sure to follow. Great movements in human history do not happen overnight. History is replete with examples of significant changes that were the culmination of methodical, determined and persistent grassroots movements.
The scourge of slavery was inherited from the old world and carried over to this new nation. It perpetuated for decades under the premise that people of a different color were the property of others, and therefore did not have the right to choose freedom for themselves. The Civil War, Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment combined to put an official end to this evil, but the seeds of change were sown long before in townhall meetings and grassroots movements all around the country.

A century later, the Civil Rights Act became a reality only after decades of slow, painful and methodical progress. Those who advocated for equal treatment for all were often harassed and intimidated into silence. But over time the silent trickle of righteous indignation cascaded into a wash that could no longer be ignored.
In a similar fashion, women were considered inferior to men in intellect and ability, and therefore did not have the right to vote until the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920. But the seeds of this movement were planted over 70 earlier but courageous women in spite of fierce opposition.
The very founding of our nation originated from a declaration that did not enact any new laws or change any ordinances. The Declaration of Independence was just words on parchment — words advocating for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Detractors at the time similarly claimed it had no teeth and would amount to nothing. But those words emboldened our founders to stake their lives in pursuing the creation of this nation.
The words in this Riverton City resolution have meaning. They have teeth. They have power. Perhaps no laws were passed. But these resolutions are not the end of this story. They are a beginning.

Ryan Phillips, Harriman, is husband and father of four, physician, small business manager and writer for Pro Life Utah.
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