Petition to ban abortion filed in home location of one of the Midwest’s busiest clinics

Local artists paint a mural in Belevue (via Facebook).

This burg near Omaha may soon become a “sanctuary city for the unborn” if a newly announced petition drive is successful.  

Bellevue, which is Nebraska’s oldest city, is also the home of one of the nation’s most prolific abortion providers, Clinics for Abortion and Reproductive Excellence (CARE), headed by Leroy Carhart. 

Residents have begun circulating petitions requesting an ordinance be passed or a special election held to outlaw abortion within the city limits. 

The movement is the brainchild of a Texas man, Mark Lee Dickson, a pro-life pastor and activist for the unborn, responsible for more than 50 towns and cities across Texas and other parts of the nation making abortion and abortion-inducing drugs illegal within their jurisdictions. 

Bellevue joins at least 12 other towns and cities in Nebraska passing or considering such a law. 

The towns of Hayes Center and Stapleton have already passed such ordinances. If successful, Bellevue, as the third-largest city in Nebraska, would become the biggest city in the state to adopt the sanctuary label. 

Bellevue city attorney Bree Robbins tells WOWT Channel 6 News a request for a special election was filed with the city on Aug. 1. 

The statement from the filing reads: 

“A proposed ordinance outlawing abortion, abortion-inducing drugs, Human Trafficking, declaring Bellevue a sanctuary for the unborn and providing for remedies including a private cause of action to enforce the same and criminal penalties, encouraging the limiting of access to certain information by internet companies and requiring the Public Library to restrict access to certain information.” 

Organizers need to gather signatures from 20% of “qualified electors” in Bellevue (7,400 registered voters) within six months from the filing date to move to the next step. 

If the signatures are gathered and verified, Robbins says the initiative will be placed before the city council for consideration. If the council doesn’t pass it, Bellevue voters get a chance in a special election. 

The initiative has the backing of the international pro-life organization LIFE Runners. Its founder, Pat Castle, lives in nearby Papillion, Nebraska. 

“I have a passion for others, anything that they need. I want to help moms choose life,” says Bernadette Costello, operations director for LIFE Runners, and one of three Bellevue residents who brought the ordinance proposal to the city. 

Shelley Mann, speaking on behalf of Carhart’s abortion clinic, told WOWT that the initiative is “extremely damaging for the community.”  

“We’ve known that there are folks who are fighting against our clinic all the time, so this doesn’t come as any surprise,” Mann, a self-described “clinic escort” added, “but we’ve known about it for a while and assumed something like this would happen.” 

Carhart has been performing abortions since the early 1970s, and he is one of the nation’s premier authorities on performing abortion procedures through all three trimesters.  

He also is one of only four doctors in the United States willing to perform third-trimester abortions, many weeks after the fetus is viable outside the womb. 

Carhart has been a leader in the fight to preserve partial-birth abortions from legal interference, even once describing a mother choosing abortion as acting in the role of a “guardian ad litem, chosen by God.” 

“That mother, I feel, has been charged by God to make the right choices for that child during its unborn and early years,” he said.  

As a pro-abortion activist, Carhart splits time between his practices in Nebraska and Maryland while maintaining a full speaking schedule promoting abortion services across the country. 

Mann says the services at CARE are needed now more than ever, noting the clinic would likely relocate to nearby Omaha should the petition drive prove successful.  

“I think closing down this clinic would close down access for Nebraskans, people in Bellevue, and people in the region in general,” said Mann. “I’ve escorted [patients] every week for, gosh, a little over three years, and I’ve never seen patient loads like we have right now. It’s crazy.” 

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning the federal constitutional right to abortion under Roe v. Wade, clinics across the country have seen increased numbers of abortion seekers. Bellevue is no exception. 

Word from Nebraska’s governor that he would not be calling for a special session of the legislature to change Nebraska’s legal stance on abortion post-Roe leaves petition supporters with few alternatives if they hope to halt abortion procedures in Bellevue. 

Pro-life voters residing within the Bellevue city limits can sign the petition on the corner of Mission Avenue and Galvin Road in Bellevue, about 25 yards from the abortion clinic’s front door.