This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

WILKES COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Wilkes County’s Board of Commissioners is the latest in a series of legislative bodies in North Carolina to adopt a resolution that joins a national program to support the right to life from the moment of conception.

The resolution was presented by David Dyer, pastor of Fairplains Baptist Church in North Wilkesboro. It comes as part of a program created by the Personhood Alliance, an organization in Centerville, Tennessee, that promotes conservative values.

The vote was 5-0 in favor of adopting the resolution.

The concept found its way to Wilkes County from Yadkin County, where supervisors passed a resolution in 2019 that is almost word-for-word the same as the one approved in Wilkes County.

Davie County also had approved a similar measure last week, and commissioners in Randolph County agreed Monday to consider a resolution at an upcoming meeting. Resolutions also are being discussed in Lincoln, Shelby and Swain counties, Dyer said.

The resolution addresses what is perceived to be an overreach of the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade and subsequent rulings, and its language suggests those rulings violate the Constitution and that such matters belong in the purview of states.

These positions would seem to be consistent with those taken in Texas, where the nation’s most restrictive abortion law was passed earlier this year. Critics have said that law violates Roe v. Wade, and on Monday the Supreme Court heard arguments about whether to allow lower courts to hear those challenges.

But the timing of why this is happening in Wilkes and the other counties in North Carolina was not tied by proponents to the debate about Texas.

Draft of Wilkes County resolution

Not a sanctuary

Susan Sturgill, director of the Wilkes Pregnancy Care Center, a nonprofit that provides care and information to anyone facing pregnancy, said the resolution was first presented to her by “a young man” she said she couldn’t identify. She said she sent the idea to Dyer, and that’s when the resolution began to take shape.

“Some people are very concerned about this idea that since Roe v. Wade, that took away the humanity of the unborn, took away their personhood,” Sturgill said. “This is putting back on the unborn their humanity. They are people. They are not born, but that doesn’t diminish who they are.”

Eddie Settle, chair of the board of commissioners, said this is a statement that “Wilkes County supports all life. I think the heading is the statement you probably are looking for.”

He was referring to the introduction to the resolution that urges “the citizens of the county to promote and defend the inalienable right to life and the inherent dignity of all human beings, including the pre-born, from conception or fertilization though all stages of development.”

Settle, who said he thought that County Attorney Tony Triplett had written the resolution, said that one word that Wilkes County removed from Yadkin County’s version of the resolution was “sanctuary. We aren’t a sanctuary for anything illegal,” he said.

That word became controversial in Yadkin County because it was presented to supervisors during the public meeting, but it had been deleted from the formal adopted text.

“We were supplied with a sample resolution. I do not know who drafted that,” Triplett said. “I made changes and redrafted it. I took quite a bit of the language. I can’t claim authorship. I redrafted and changed some of the language.”

Pastors lead effort

Dyer said a pastor in Yadkin County and a gentleman in Kernersville reached out to him about the resolution.

“They had done that in Yadkin County. We went to lunch, and they shared it with me,” he said.

The language was written by the Personhood Alliance. He said he checked out the organization.  Abortion opposition is a key element of the mission Personhood Alliance publishes on its website, which also includes information opposing COVID-19 vaccines and mandates.

The Alliance describes itself as “a Christ-centered, biblically informed organization dedicated to the non-violent advancement of the recognition and protection of the God-given, inalienable right to life of all human beings as legal persons, at every stage of their biological development and in every circumstance.”

Personhood Alliance’s programs include a “Personhood Strategy” that seeks to recruit churches and individuals to help spread its mission. In the Triad one such person is Keith Pavlansky, a business owner, pastor and longtime resident of Yadkin County.

“My responsibilities with the Personhood Alliance derived from my role as a pastor of a local church,” Pavlansky wrote in an email.  “As an affiliate of The Personhood Alliance in NC, I engage with legislators to pass legislation that protects the God-given and Constitutionally protected right to life.  We believe that it is wrong to kill innocent human beings, and we want to promote a culture of life.

“The Sanctuary city/county initiative is a good way to pass local resolutions that are reflective of the views of its citizens regarding the sanctity of life. I particularly like working with other pastors across all denominational lines who will engage the culture for positive effect. 

“We are creating ‘abortion-free zones’ (via resolution) across the state while helping to knit communities together and help families in desperate situations.”

Dyer couldn’t say why this program found its way to him just now, but he is glad that it did.

“It’s simply a matter of timing when they brought it to our attention,” Dyer said. “I felt impressed to support and encourage it.

“If I had known about it two years ago or five years ago, I would’ve done it then.”

Other issues

Said Molly Rivera, a North Carolina-based spokesperson for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic: “Regardless of the efforts of anti-abortion extremists who are trying their best to spread their ideology across North Carolina through local ordinances, abortion remains safe and legal here today. 

“While resolutions like these are not enforceable, this practice of using policy and inflammatory rhetoric to chip away at access and antagonize those needing abortion care is dangerous and underscores the reality that 91 percent of North Carolina counties do not have an abortion provider. 

“Each of us should be free to live our lives with dignity and make our own health care decisions without intimidation and shame from our neighbors or elected officials.” 

A group of residents from Wilkes County, LB Prevette, Katie Von cosmos, Lauren Foster, Ethan and Kate Burgess, Jamee Thompson, Bonnie Adams, Kelsey Crawford and Greg and Gia Galifinakis, attended to protest at the meeting but not about abortion rights or right to life.

(Courtesy of LB Prevette)
(Courtesy of LB Prevette)

“We have zero abortion providers in Wilkes County today, and we will have zero abortion providers tomorrow,” Prevette said.

“We are wondering why churches and community members are not using their organizing powers to address meaningful issues that do exist.

She cited 230 children in foster care and 30 licensed foster homes in the county. She said there are 6,473 children who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches at school.

“This organization is going into what is the equivalent to a county-wide Facebook post,” she said. “We are impressed by their ability to organize and hope that in future they will do that about real issues facing our communities.”