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A meeting of the Public Works and Safety Committee was standing room only as the Public Works and Safety Committee of the Saline County Quorum Court voted Tuesday to declare Saline County a “Pro-Life” county.

Justice of the Peace Davie Gibson brought forth the resolution.

Saline County residents spoke against and in support of the resolution. The number of those in attendance who supported the resolution greatly outnumbered those against it.

When the meeting began and the resolution was read aloud, instantly the crowd began to cheer in support of the resolution.

Melinda Williams was the first to address the court with a public comment.

“I would like to know the legalities in what this resolution is, and what is trying to be accomplished with this resolution,” she said.

Justice of the Peace Everett Hatcher responded.

“This is not the first time a Quorum Court in Arkansas has done this,” Hatcher stated, adding that Washington County and Benton County Quorum Courts had passed similar resolutions.

Hatcher went on to say that this was not a legal issue the court was trying to change, and that the JPs were just trying to let people know what the position of the court is on this issue.

Williams began to ask the court if they had heard from anyone who opposed the resolution before she had spoken to them and was interrupted by Justice of the Peace Josh Curtis.

“Ma’am, this is just public comment, you don’t get to ask the questions, we ask the questions,” Curtis told Williams.

“Oh really? I’m a citizen here and I don’t agree with this, I’m not sure that y’all have heard anyone that does not agree with you,” Williams responded.

When Williams mentioned that the entirety of the court are Republicans, the crowd began to laugh.

Ken Yang was the next to speak. Yang, who supported the resolution, is the president of the Republican County Chairman’s Association, and the chairman of the Republican Party of Saline County.

“Saline County is not only one of the reddest and most Republican counties in the state, but one of the reddest and most Republican counties in the nation,” Yang said.

Yang went on to say that two of the Republican Party principles are the belief in “the power of God almighty” and “the sanctity of life.”

“This resolution is affirmation of those principles that all 13 of y’all, including the county judge, agreed to stand for when deciding to run as Republicans,” Yang added.

Victoria Williams, a resident of Benton who was against the resolution, pressed the court.

“I do not support this resolution. Because in effect the pro-life movement is the anti-abortion movement. If truly, you are for the sanctity of life, why are you only talking about what you are against? Why aren’t you offering resolutions that offer support to impoverished children? Why aren’t you talking about free school lunches for all students? Why aren’t you talking about supporting mothers who find themselves in this situation where they have an unplanned pregnancy and they don’t feel they can support the child. That is a scary position for any woman to be in,” Victoria Williams said. “I would like some empathy and understanding for the plight of young women that end up with unplanned pregnancies, which is what results in abortion. Instead of taking away choices, provide more choices, provide more support and truly be compassionate if that’s what you are about.”

The back and forth continued with many rising to speak in support of the resolution. Multiple women told their personal stories.

Janet Dixon from New Beginnings Pregnancy Center spoke as well. New Beginnings offers support to new mothers with babies up to 24 months in age, according to their website. Dixon pointed out that instead of choosing to have an abortion, those seeking one could come to New Beginnings for alternatives and support.

Kandi Cox, of ABBA Adoptions and ABBA Charities, also spoke about the resources her organizations provide for mothers who wish to put their child up for adoption.

One woman who attended the meeting said she was 34 weeks pregnant and had originally thought about abortion, but took a different path with the help of New Beginnings.

Throughout the public comments portion of the meeting, more than a dozen residents spoke in support of the resolution and continued to receive cheers from the crowd.

After receiving approval by the committee, the resolution will now go before the full court during the next meeting set for Sept. 20 in the Saline County Courthouse.

More information about other action taken during the meeting will be featured in an upcoming edition of The Saline Courier.