‘Safe space’: 18th Texas ‘sanctuary city for the unborn’ passes ordinance outlawing abortion

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Abortion has been outlawed in another city in the state of Texas. On Monday, January 25, the City of Grapeland (population 1,489), located about 70 miles south of Tyler and 130 miles north of Houston, became the 18th city in the nation to pass an enforceable ordinance outlawing abortion within its city limits.

The vote by the City Council vote took place at a packed Grapeland Event Center. No one who spoke up at the council meeting spoke in opposition to the ordinance. The vote was almost unanimous, with four council members voting in favor of the ordinance, zero council members voting against it, and one council member choosing to abstain from voting on it. As a result of the majority vote, no unborn child will be able to be murdered by abortion within the city limits of Grapeland, Texas.

The vote to outlaw abortion comes just days after the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a day when President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris released a statement committing to ensure everyone has access to abortion in every zip code. Even before President Biden and Vice President Harris made their statement, the effort to see abortion outlawed in Grapeland was underway, but once this statement was released there was an even greater urgency to see the ordinance passed sooner rather than later.

Mayor Mitchell Woody addresses the citizens of Grapeland. (Photo: Mark Lee Dickson)

Mayor Mitchell Woody said of the ordinance,”It is considered murder to kill someone who has a heartbeat, DNA, fingerprints and the ability to dream. A human fetus has all these things too. So why is abortion not considered murder? We have taken a stance today to say abortion is murder and our city will not allow it within our city limits.”

The Grapeland Ordinance Outlawing Abortion states, “It shall be unlawful for any person to procure or perform an abortion of any type and at any stage of pregnancy in the City of Grapeland, Texas,” and, “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion that occurs in the City of Grapeland.” Abortion is defined in the ordinance as, “the act of using or prescribing an instrument, a drug, a medicine, or any other substance, device, or means with the intent to cause the death of an unborn child of a woman known to be pregnant.”

READ: Small Texas city of Ackerly becomes 17th ‘sanctuary city for the unborn’

Like many other recently passed ordinances, the Grapeland Ordinance has two major enforcement mechanisms: the public enforcement mechanism and the private enforcement mechanism. The public enforcement mechanism establishes fines against the abortionist and anyone who aids and abets the abortionist for any abortion taking place within the Grapeland city limits. According to the ordinance, these fines cannot be imposed unless it is determined that (1) the individual seeking to impose the penalty upon the one who committed the unlawful act will not create an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions, (2) the person, corportation, or entity who committed the unlawful act of abortion lacks standing to assert the third-party rights of women seeking abortions in court, or (3) Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey are overturned. The public enforcement section of the ordinance is the only part of the ordinance which is not immediate, but dependent upon other factors.

Rubi Hernandez, Director of Living Alternatives in Crockett, TX, speaks to the Grapeland City Council. Living Alternatives is a pregnancy and parenting support center that is located about 15 miles south of Grapeland and serves all of Houston County. (Photo: Mark Lee Dickson)

Unlike the public enforcement mechanism, the private enforcement mechanism is immediately enforceable. Under “Private Enforcement” the Grapeland Ordinance states, “Any person, corporation, or entity that commits an unlawful act . . . other than the mother of the unborn child that has been aborted, shall be liable in tort to a surviving relative of the aborted unborn child, including the unborn child’s mother, father, grandparents, siblings or half-siblings. The person or entity that committed the unlawful act shall be liable to each surviving relative of the aborted unborn child for: (a) Compensatory damages, including damages for emotional distress; (b) Punitive damages; and (c) Costs and attorneys’ fees.”

Section F-4 of the Grapeland Ordinance reads, “Private enforcement . . . may be brought against any person, corporation, or entity that commits an unlawful act . . . upon the effective date of the ordinance, regardless of whether the Supreme Court has overruled Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), or Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), and regardless of whether the current jurisprudence of the Supreme Court permits states and municipalities to punish those who violate abortion prohibitions.”

Residents and community leaders expressed their gratefulness for the passage of the Grapeland ordinance, with resident Brenda Owens remarking, “I am thankful for the courage and integrity our city council showed in voting to make Grapeland, Texas a Sanctuary City for the Unborn. I can only believe that by doing so, they have positioned our little town to receive the blessings of God in the future.” Owens continued, “With their vote, the Grapeland City Council built a safe space for the unborn and their mothers, and sent a clear message of how Grapeland acknowledges the intrinsic value and potential every life holds.”

Pastor Craig Vance from First Baptist Church of Grapeland said he is “proud of our city council and mayor,” adding, “Many small towns don’t think that they play a role in saving the lives of the unborn. Our city council determined, along with the input of our citizens, that we can and will stand up for the right to life of those in the womb.”

Grapeland is not likely to be the last city to outlaw abortion. Others expected to consider the action in the near future include the cities of Latexo (population 272), Shallowater (population 2,574), and Seminole (population 7,815).

Due to the “Initiative and Referendum” process made possible by the Lubbock City Charter, the citizens of Lubbock (population 264,000) will be voting on outlawing abortion within the city limits of their city on May 1, 2021. The City of Odessa’s newly elected Mayor and two council members say they favor of outlawing abortion in their city, leaving the City of Odessa (population 123,334) only one vote shy of outlawing abortion within its city limits.

For more information about the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn initiative, visit

Mark Lee Dickson is a Director with Right to Life of East Texas, a Pastor of SovereignLOVE Church in Longview, Texas, and the founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn initiative. 

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