Guest Column

Amarillo ‘Sanctuary City for the Unborn’ Initiative petition signatures declared valid

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

On Tuesday, May 28, 2024, the City Council of Amarillo, Texas (pop. 202,408) received the results of a citizen initiative petition for a Sanctuary City for the Unborn (SCFTU) ordinance that would further prohibit abortion within the City of Amarillo and prohibit the abortion-trafficking of pregnant mothers and their unborn children to pro-abortion states like New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas. That citizen initiative petition, which began on December 29, 2023 and was turned in on April 25, 2024, was found to have verified approximately 6,400 valid signatures of the approximately 10,400 original signatures. 

During public comment many spoke for and against the proposed ordinance. Amarillo SCFTU Initiating Committee member Jana May, who has worked for the ordinance’s passage since 2021, was one of the many who spoke in favor of it. May used her three minutes to remind Councilman Tom Scherlen of his promise to support the measure, stating, “Tom, you told me twice if we got the number necessary of petitions, which we did, that you would support the ordinance because you would consider it a mandate of the people. I want to say to you that I hope that you are a man of your word.” 

In addition to hearing multiple speakers in favor of the ordinance, the mayor and City Council also received several letters from a variety of well-known conservative and pro-life organizations including Texas Right to Life, Alliance for a Safe Texas, and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA). 

Sanctuary City for the Unborn Initiating Committee members John Barrett, Jana May, and Steve Austin address the Mayor and City Council. (Photo: Mark Lee Dickson)

NIFLA President and Founder Thomas Glessner gave their organization’s full endorsement. writing in his letter, “NIFLA fully supports the proposed Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance which was brought forth by the citizen initiative petition. While the pre-Roe v. Wade Statutes, the Texas Heartbeat Act, and the Human Life Protection Act have all made a great impact in reducing abortions and empowering mothers to choose life, there is still work to be done in Texas.”

Glessner went on to address loopholes that exist within state law:

Under the laws of the State of Texas, it is not illegal for an abortion to be performed on a Texas resident outside the State of Texas. And, under the laws of the State of Texas, it is not illegal for someone to drive a Texas resident to get an abortion outside the State of Texas.”

Every day, pregnant mothers are being driven across state lines for the purpose of obtaining a legal abortion. Every day, unborn children are losing their lives. This ordinance attempts to close some of these loopholes by prohibiting abortions performed on residents of Amarillo across state lines and by prohibiting the abortion trafficking of unborn children across state lines.

In her letter, Alliance for a Safe Texas President Sheena Rodriguez called upon Amarillo’s leadership to take action and address a “serious problem” in their city. Rodriguez wrote, “In the face of the evils of abuse and exploitation, we must do what we can to help save lives and safeguard our communities.” Rodriguez encouraged the city council to pass the ordinance which would “prohibit abortions performed on residents of Amarillo and the abortion trafficking of unborn children across state lines” and further stated that “By taking this necessary step, the City Council will play a pivotal role in helping to stop the further abuse and exploitation of women and children.”

In his letter, Texas Right To Life President Dr. John Seago argued the ordinance language supported by residents of Amarillo “will serve as an effective and enforceable policy to save lives, disrupt illegal activity from pro-abortion organizations, and stand strong for all innocent human life.” Dr. Seago also referred to the recommended language in the ordinance as “proven in other cities,” to be “legally prudent and enforceable.” 

An August 2023 letter signed by Texas Senators and Representatives reiterating the need for the ordinance was referenced by supporters at multiple times during the council meeting. It read in part:

While it is true that abortion is outlawed in the entire State of Texas, from the point of conception, our work is far from over. Right now… women are being trafficked across our borders by abortion traffickers funded by abortion trafficking organizations still operating in our state. As a result, these women are being abused and traumatized by abortion across our Texas-New Mexico border and sent back to Texas for our cities and counties to deal with the aftermath taking place in our homes, our schools, our churches, and our hospitals. The Sanctuary for the Unborn ordinances seek to protect these institutions by putting safeguards in place to protect men, women, and their children for years to come.

These ordinances, which seek to close as many loopholes as possible, do not penalize women who seek or undergo abortions, but places the penalty on…the abortionist and the industry profiting from the unjust procedure, including abortion traffickers. 

The Alternative Ordinance

After receiving citizen support for the original 18-page SCFTU Ordinance, an alternative two-page ordinance was proposed by Mayor Stanley. This outraged Amarillo SCFTU Initiating Committee Member and Amarillo Area Young Republicans President Jacob Meyer, who claimed the “Citizen Initiative petition process does not give the Mayor or anyone else on the City Council the ability to propose an alternative ordinance as a part of the discussion,” adding that the mayor did not “respect the process outlined by the Amarillo City Charter.”

During the meeting, Mayor Stanley publicly reminded the Amarillo Reproductive Freedom Alliance of his promise not to “move” on the SCFTU Ordinance “as written.”

“I am going to hold firm on that,” the mayor vowed.

However, the mayor’s two-page ordinance does nothing more than amend the Amarillo Municipal Code by “adding the state-adopted abortion-related restrictions and prohibitions found in Chapters 170A, 171, and 697” of the Texas Health and Safety Code. The mayor deceptively stated, “These are the loopholes that you guys are telling us we are not paying attention to.” The mayor’s ordinance, adopting state laws on abortion the City of Amarillo already has to abide by,  took precedence and was given a thorough read-through and explanation section-by-section. 

“The State of Texas is a ‘Sanctuary State.’ We don’t have the authority or jurisdiction to legislate laws in New Mexico or any other state,” the mayor claimed. 

Mayor Stanley justified his proposal by claiming that the 18-page SCFTU ordinance “is going to be more difficult for you to explain to voters why you would need to pass another ordinance when the city council spent a nine hour marathon here passing this one.”

The mayor allotted time for four individuals to address the City Council, including members of the Amarillo Reproductive Freedom Alliance, Amanda Zurawski, lead plaintiff in the case Zurawski v. the State of Texas (the state Supreme court ruled in favor of the state’s law), Hope Choice Pregnancy Center’s Executive Director Candy Gibbs, and members of the SCFTU Initiating Committee. 

Zurawski – who had sued the state for the Human Life Protection Act – was unable to catch her flight to Amarillo, so a letter was read on her behalf. Like Mayor Stanley, Zurawski opposed the proposed SCFTU Ordinance based on the provision prohibiting abortion trafficking.

Unfortunately, Candy Gibbs, the Executive Director of Hope Choice Pregnancy Center, also opposed the SCFTU Ordinance because the only resource listed in the ordinance was the Texas Pregnancy Care Network which sends people to pregnancy centers throughout Texas utilizing the State of Texas’ Thriving Texas Families (formerly Alternatives to Abortion) program. Gibbs’ objection was that the program, which funds pro-life pregnancy centers, was government-funded. She then claimed that these agencies which utilize this program “claim to be pro-life” but “receive payment from the government.” 

Hope Choice Pregnancy Center Executive Director Candy Gibbs speaks against the Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance outlawing abortion trafficking (Photo: Mark Lee Dickson)

Surprised that a pregnancy center would attack such a program, and seeking to defend Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle – which funds the pregnancy assistance program known as Joseph’s Project – Texas Pregnancy Care Network’s Executive Director Nicole Neeley found it necessary to set the record straight. 

Neeley stated, “The Texas Thriving Families Program… promotes childbirth as an alternative to abortion, and all the organizations we contract with do so by providing counseling, classes, material assistance, and referrals supporting eligible clients through pregnancy and up to 36 months postpartum.” Neeley reiterated that “organizations in our network do not receive payment for every interaction they have with a client.” 

Neeley also addressed the misconception raised by Gibbs that pregnancy centers receiving funds from the state program cannot meet the spiritual needs of their clients. Neeley stated, “We work with many organizations that can and do provide spiritual counseling, although they must seek the client’s consent and keep those services separate from government funded services as is required by our contract with the state. We have over 180 locations across the state of Texas that report they do so much more for clients than what they receive payments for and that receiving payments under this program does not get in the way of serving their clients but helps them flourish as organizations so they can help Texas families thrive.”

Gibbs also objected to the SCFTU Ordinance prohibition on abortion trafficking and the private enforcement mechanism. “I am not in line with telling people where they can and cannot drive their cars, and I am certainly not in line with encouraging people to bring private right of action against parents and grandparents,” the PRC director claimed. 

In other words, while Gibbs applauded the Texas Heartbeat Act, which allowed for private right of action against anyone assisting in an abortion, she sought a carve-out for parents and grandparents, claiming it “will simply be compounding the trauma” of the abortion. But it stands to reason that preventing the abortion altogether would also prevent the trauma. Gibbs’ objections merely water down The Texas Heartbeat Act, which has saved over 10,000 lives and does not include her carve-out for relatives. 

Live Action’s Aiding Abusers series made clear that relatives of pregnant teens can coerce them into abortion, or use abortion to cover abuse.

Objections to the Alternative Ordinance

NIFLA President and Founder Thomas Glessner opposed Gibbs’s recommendations, even though Gibbs operates a NIFLA affiliated PRC. In a letter sent by NIFLA to Hope Choice Pregnancy Center prior to the council meeting, Glessner wrote, “NIFLA does not support and strongly opposes any changes to the ordinance that would add exceptions absent from any other Texas abortion law, as this would be inconsistent with state law and could have a detrimental effect across the state and the nation. If such an exception were to be added, it would also create a situation where pro-life leaders and organizations from across the state and the nation would likely feel compelled to weigh in on the matter and publicly address those who are advocating for such exceptions.” 

Ironically, Gibbs supported Mayor Stanley’s alternative ordinance, which as previously stated, just reiterated various state laws on abortion – including a law that provides a private right of action against anyone that aided or abetted an abortion, even parents and grandparents. 

Representing the SCFTU Initiating Committee, Houston Attorney Jared Najvar called the alternative ordinance “an unnecessary and meaningless distraction.” In his letter to the Mayor and City Council, Najvar shared, “Mayor Stanley’s ordinance claims to protect human life by ‘amending the Amarillo Municipal Code to add State-adopted abortion-related restrictions and prohibitions’ but does not accomplish anything more than State law already accomplishes, raising the understandable question whether the City Council wants to simply appear to be strongly pro-life – by meaninglessly regurgitating provisions already in state law and repeating something the Council itself has already said through a resolution approved years ago – or whether it wants to actually do something.” 

Texas Right To Life President Dr. John Seago’s words about Mayor Stanley’s alternative ordinance were just as strong. In his letter to the Mayor and City Council, Dr. Seago called the alternative ordinance “completely meaningless,” in that it would “do absolutely nothing to protect Life or stop the new deadly tactics being used by abortion businesses and organizations in Texas and New Mexico.” He added that the alternative ordinance “does not contain a single Pro-Life policy nor does it honor the thousands of Amarillo citizens who worked diligently to bring this issue to the attention of the Mayor and City Council. The adoption of the alternative ordinance will set a negative precedent for other Texas cities.” 

Reflecting on the meeting, Amarillo SCFTU Initiating Committee member Steve Austin stated, “The last time I checked, Mayor Cole Stanley is not the one who collected about 10,400 signatures in support of his ordinance. That was us. Yet our proposed ordinance was not the focus of Tuesday’s meeting.” 

In accordance with the Amarillo City Charter, the Mayor and City Council have 30 days from May 28, 2024, to take final action on the citizen initiative petition. The city council’s next meeting is scheduled for June 11, 2024. If the Mayor and City Council reject the ordinance supported by over 10,000 residents of Amarillo, the Initiative Committee has the opportunity to force the ordinance onto the ballot for the November 2024 election.

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.

What is Live Action News?

Live Action News is pro-life news and commentary from a pro-life perspective. Learn More

Contact for questions, corrections, or if you are seeking permission to reprint any Live Action News content.

GUEST ARTICLES: To submit a guest article to Live Action News, email with an attached Word document of 800-1000 words. Please also attach any photos relevant to your submission if applicable. If your submission is accepted for publication, you will be notified within three weeks. Guest articles are not compensated. (See here for Open License Agreement.) Thank you for your interest in Live Action News!

To Top