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Tensions flare as Newtown supervisors table abortion decision


At its September meeting, dozens of spectators packed the Newtown Township public meeting room as the board of supervisors considered adopting a resolution supporting abortion rights.

This came as Supervisor Elen Snyder put forth a motion at a previous meeting to ask Township Solicitor David Sander to draft the resolution after the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. But it was not well received by most in attendance, who at times heckled the board for even considering it.

Newtown resident Dan Tarrent, a self-described man of Christ, spoke about his concern that the resolution was not representative of the entire community. “Be careful what you represent, and if you’re going to make a statement to our officials up the ladder, make a statement that represents all of Newtown.”

Resident John Griffen, a father of seven daughters, added, “I am shocked that you’re not concerned about zoning now. You’re more concerned about abortion rights. I really am surprised that you’re moving into that area. ... I think this is an overreach of your power, and you’re pushing your agenda.”

“As an elected township supervisor, you’re responsible for issues of public safety, managing growth, code enforcement, environment budgets, and perhaps most importantly the responsible use of taxpayers’ money,” resident Denise Linsky said.

“The topic of abortion, which is the deliberate ending of an unborn baby’s life, is not within your purview ... This resolution is offensive and should have no place in township business”.

Resident Tim Smith, pastor of Crossings Community Church in Newtown, said “Approximately 45 minutes of your time and taxpayer money has been invested in an item that will not make a difference in Newtown Township. We would prefer that you invest that time and money into the things that change our lives and make them better right here where we live”.

Terry Christiansen, planning commission member, had a different perspective regarding the resolution and abortion more broadly. “I think it’s important to note that abortions took place in this country before Roe versus Wade was decided and abortions will take place in this country regardless of what the law says. The question is whether or not they’ll be done safely.”

Another resident, Roseanne Hartly, spoke from personal experience regarding the topic: “I was 17 when I got pregnant. My mom was pro-choice, she took me to get an abortion outside of town ... I just wanted to share that when I was there, it was horrific.” She went on to describe how residents collected more than 600 signatures on a petition against the resolution.

In response to the comments, the vast majority opposing the resolution, Snyder said: “No right that has ever been given by the Constitution and our lawmakers has ever been taken away before. That makes this an unprecedented event. An unprecedented event calls for unprecedented action.”

“I’m Jewish, I appreciate the fact that you all state your faith and you’re Christians, but Jews believe that life begins at first breath,” Snyder said. “I want you to understand we are not making laws, we are simply supporting the laws as they already exist ... that abortions are legal up to 23 weeks. We simply want our lawmakers to support women’s rights.”

Supervisor Kyle Davis, the lone board member against the resolution from the beginning, then made a motion to table. He stated, “This is a divisive issue and there are two sides of this issue that are very passionate, and since it’s not in our purview as Newtown Township’s Board of Supervisors, I didn’t want to get into debating this issue or any other issue at a higher level and want to focus on things that we do have actual control over.”

From a different perspective, Supervisor John Mack said, “I just wanted to say that we’ve heard a lot from one side of the issue tonight, we haven’t had the ability to hear the other side and I want to table this so that we have an opportunity to organize maybe the other side to come and make public comments.”

Chairman Dennis Fisher added, “I’ve struggled with this, I am absolutely pro-choice but I believe that a cooling-off period could be beneficial. I still agree with Miss Snyder in the end but a cooling-off period would be helpful as it would be a way to get views from all around the township.”

Chairman Fisher called a vote on the motion to table the issue until the next meeting. The vote was 4-1 in favor of tabling, with Snyder dissenting.

Newtown Township