Guest Column

Amarillo citizens turn in signatures to force ‘Sanctuary City for the Unborn’ vote

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this guest post are solely those of the guest author. 

On Thursday, April 25, a Citizen Initiative Petition was filed with the city secretary to see Amarillo, Texas (population 201,291), pass an ordinance outlawing abortion and abortion trafficking. After years of attempting to get an ordinance passed through their City Council, which is the way that the majority of cities have passed their ordinances, the citizens of Amarillo decided it was time to take a different approach – the citizen initiative petition process outlined in their city’s charter.

The very first ordinance, which contained the private enforcement mechanism, was drafted for the City of Amarillo on December 13, 2021. Since this ordinance was drafted, over 20 different versions have been written for the City of Amarillo. 

The Citizen Initiative Petition, led by 11 Amarillo residents, was a matter of last resort after several elected officials started to criticize the private enforcement mechanism found in the Texas Heartbeat Act and in every Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance in the State of Texas. 

On the afternoon of Friday, December 29, 2023, the team filed the necessary paperwork to begin the Citizen Initiative Petition process. Members of the Amarillo Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance Initiating Committee include Jana May, Cindy Price, Peggy Carter Thomas, Jacob A. Meyer, John Barrett, Steve Austin, Jennifer Roberts, Martha Sell, Alex Deanda, Connie Morgan, and Carol Ann Stewart. Jana May, head of the Initiating Committee, said, “The Initiating Committee moved forward with the petition process because we were not able to make any headway with the current city leadership.” 

The Initiating Committee worked hard for months, collecting signature after signature from the citizens of Amarillo. While the amount needed was 5,761 signatures, the initiating committee obtained a total of 10,322 signatures from throughout the City of Amarillo. If 5,761 of these signatures are found to be valid signatures of registered voters of Amarillo, the Amarillo City Council will be forced to vote for or against the proposed ordinance to outlaw abortion.

Members of the Amarillo Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Team pose with boxes of over 10,000 signatures outside of the Amarillo City Hall. (Photo: Mark Lee Dickson)

The Initiating Committee, who pre-verified many of the petition signatures, believe that at least 7,419 signatures are from registered voters who live within the city limits of Amarillo. Robin Ross, an Amarillo resident and an abortion survivor who worked tirelessly overseeing the process, shared, “We couldn’t have collected the signatures without the mobilization of the churches who were not ashamed to stand for life.” Ross continued, “As an abortion survivor it means a great deal to me because it shows that those churches care about each individual’s life – regardless of whether they are born or unborn.” 

Ross also stressed the importance of the contribution of the time spent by blockwalkers from East Texas, who assisted the Initiating Committee in collecting thousands of signatures. Prior to the signatures being submitted to the City Secretary at Amarillo City Hall, supporters of the Ordinance met at Randall County Republican Headquarters to pray over the boxes of the signatures. Initiating Committee member Peggy Carter Thomas, who also serves on the Board of Regents for Amarillo College, shared, “We could not have done this without God. Prayer has been a vital part of this initiative and will continue to be a vital part of this initiative.” 

If the City Council rejects the proposed ordinance, the ordinance has the opportunity to go to the voters at the next available election. If either the majority of the council or the majority of the voters in a citywide election vote to pass the ordinance then abortion will be outlawed in Amarillo and the city will be added to the growing number of Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn.

A statement submitted by the Initiating Committee read:

We, the Initiating Committee, are proud of this ordinance and are convinced that the provisions prohibiting abortion found therein are non-negotiable items. Upon learning that the Assistant District Attorney over Juveniles for Randall County has had a long history as a pro-abortion activist working both for Planned Parenthood and Jane’s Due Process, the Initiating Committee is even more convinced that the private enforcement mechanism found in this proposed ordinance is also a non-negotiable item. 

The private enforcement mechanism, found in the Texas Heartbeat Act and in 58 ordinances across Texas, has a proven record of protecting the lives of unborn children and their mothers. We, the Initiating Committee, pray and expect that this city council will recognize the huge amount of signatures submitted represents a mandate by the citizens and voters of Amarillo.

The statement concludes, “This process has already played out in several cities in our state, including: Lubbock, Abilene, San Angelo, Plainview, and Athens. If this process came to fruition successfully in these cities, there is no reason this process should not come into fruition here.”

Despite this clear message, Amarillo Mayor Cole Stanley told The Texas Tribune, “I think a large percentage of those people that signed the petition haven’t read it.” Stanley told the Tribune that he intends to put forth his own ordinance that is “very similar” but without “anything that oversteps on civil liberties to drive on a road or to travel in between states.” The statement made by Amarillo’s Republican Mayor appeared to show his agreement with President Joe Biden’s position on “Abortion Travel.” On the very day Roe v. Wade was overturned, President Joe Biden said, “Women must remain free to travel safely to another state to seek the care they need.” On March 7, 2024, the Biden-Harris Administration released a fact sheet entitled, The Biden-Harris Administration Continues the Fight for Reproductive Freedom. In the document, under a section entitled, “Support the Ability to Travel for Reproductive Health Care” the document states, “Women must be able to cross state lines to access legal reproductive health care.”

Several attempts have been made by lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to protect abortion travel. On July 7, 2022, United States Representatives Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas-7), Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.-10), and Jamie Raskin (D-Md-8) introduced the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act of 2022, which would have prohibited “anyone acting under state law from interfering with a person’s ability to access out-of-state abortion services.” The measure passed with 223 yeas, 205 nays, and with 3 not voting. Among those voting against the pro-abortion bill was Amarillo area representative, Congressman Ronny Jackson (R–Texas-13). While the bill passed the House, it failed in the Senate. 

On February 2, 2023, United States Representatives Fletcher, Strickland, and Raskin reintroduced the bill from the previous year under a new name. The Ensuring Women’s Right to Reproductive Freedom Act was described as protecting “the constitutional right to travel across state lines, including for reproductive health care.” A total of 176 Democrats sponsored the bill, including Texas Representative Colin Allred (D-Texas-32). The pro-abortion bill has yet to move forward, though many of the bill’s sponsors have every intention to see the bill become law.

The Senate has also attempted to move forward their own bill sponsored by some of the most pro-abortion members of the Senate. The bill was sent to committee, where it ultimately died.

Initiating Committee head Jana May shared, “We did not trick anyone into signing the petition. Mayor Stanley’s statement is disappointing and not factual and I feel like some in our city’s leadership are standing more with our opposition than with the unborn and their mothers on this issue.” 

Amarillo Resident and Initiating Committee member John Barrett shared, “Mayor Stanley’s statement that this ordinance ‘oversteps on civil liberties to drive on a road or to travel in between states’ seems to be more in line with the Biden-Harris Administration than the will of the citizens of Amarillo.” Barrett continued, “Mayor Stanley’s comments are sadly out of step with laws already on the books that have been tried and tested. We have been more than clear, the abortion trafficking provision is a non-negotiable item in this ordinance and we are not going to give it up.” 

While the battle may just be beginning, the Initiating Committee is ready to do whatever it takes to see abortion trafficking outlawed in Amarillo.

The DOJ put a pro-life grandmother in jail for protesting the killing of preborn children. Please take 30-seconds to TELL CONGRESS: STOP THE DOJ FROM TARGETING PRO-LIFE AMERICANS.

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