Activism

Citizens in four Texas cities begin process to force public vote outlawing abortion

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

Over the last two and a half years, 43 cities throughout the United States have passed enforceable ordinances outlawing abortion within their city limits. While 42 of those cities saw their ordinances passed by their mayors and city councils, there is one city that saw its ordinance pass through a citizen initiative petition process allowed for by their city charter: the City of Lubbock (pop. 264,000).

Now residents in four more cities throughout Texas have begun the citizen initiative petition process allowed for by their city charters with hopes that their cities will become Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn. Even though the circumstances leading up to each of the four citizen initiatives were different, each group of residents felt as though it was the only path forward. The four cities where residents have begun collecting signatures to force a public vote include San Angelo, Abilene, Lindale, and Plainview. The combined population total for all four cities is 255,867 – just a little over 8,000 shy of the population of Lubbock.

Residents from the City of San Angelo (pop. 101,612), located about 200 miles northwest of Austin and about 270 miles southwest of Dallas, began their citizen initiative process on November 18, 2021. In order for their initiative petition to be successful, circulators must obtain a number of signatures equal to at least 25% of the total number voting at the last regular municipal mayoral election. The Tom Green County Board of Elections has reported a total of 6,047 voting in the last regular municipal mayoral election in May 2021. Based on this number, the circulators will need to obtain no less than 1,512 qualified signatures from the registered voters living within city limits.

READ: Texas city of Anson is 42nd ‘sanctuary city for the unborn’ in the US

Residents from the City of Abilene (pop. 125,182), located about 215 miles northwest of Austin and about 180 miles west of Dallas, began their citizen initiative petition process on December 3, 2021. In order for their initiative petition to be successful, circulators must obtain a number of signatures equal to at least 10% of such voters computed as of the date of the last regular municipal election. The Taylor County Board of Elections reports 65,869 registered voters at the date of the last regular municipal election in May 2021, and based on this, the circulators will need to obtain no less than 6,586 qualified signatures from the registered voters living within city limits.

Residents from the City of Lindale (pop. 6,730), located about 235 miles northeast of Austin and about 90 miles east of Dallas, began their citizen initiative petition process on January 5th, 2022. In order for their initiative petition to be successful, circulators must obtain a number of signatures equal to at least 15% of the total number of qualified voters registered to vote at the last regular municipal election. The Smith County Board of Elections has reported a total of 4,091 qualified voters registered to vote in the City of Lindale at the time of the last regular municipal election in May 2021, so the Committee of Petitioners will need to obtain no less than 614 qualified signatures from the registered voters who live within city limits.

Residents from the City of Plainview (pop. 22,343), located about 410 miles northwest of Austin and about 350 miles northeast of Dallas, began their citizen initiative petition process on January 12, 2022. In order for their initiative petition to be successful, circulators must obtain a number of signatures equal to at least 10% of the current registered voters. The Hale County Board of Elections has reported a total of 10,724 qualified voters registered to vote in Plainview at the time of the filing of the Petitioners’ Committee Affidavit. Based on this, the Petitioners’ Committee needs no less than 1,072 qualified signatures from the registered voters within the city limits.

Residents of Plainview making up the Petitioners’ Committee for the Citizen Initiative in their city take a group picture at a local pregnancy resource center supportive of the effort on Tuesday, January 11th, 2022. (Photo: Mark Lee Dickson)

While the steps in each of the four cities vary, each of the city charters require their city councils to act if their citizens collect their necessary number of qualified petition signatures. According to each of their city charters, each city must adopt the ordinance in the exact form proposed or upon their rejection thereof, the ordinance will be placed on the ballot for the next available election.

The San Angelo, Abilene, Lindale, and Plainview Ordinances Outlawing Abortion work in tandem with the Texas Heartbeat Act. While the Texas Heartbeat Act outlaws abortion from the point of a detectable heartbeat, the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Ordinances outlaws abortion at the moment of conception. In a May 2021 interview with KCBD Lubbock, Constitutional law professor Josh Blackman said the Governor’s signature on the Texas Heartbeat Act supports any city which wishes to outlaw abortion. Speaking of the Texas Heartbeat Act, Blackman shared, “It says that if a local municipality like Lubbock wants to go further and impose greater restrictions on abortion, they can, so they won’t be in conflict. These two laws will be in harmony.”

READ: Judge dismisses Planned Parenthood lawsuit against Texas ‘sanctuary city for the unborn’

The Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Ordinances for Abilene, San Angelo, Lindale, and Plainview illustrate this point well. The ordinances state, “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” and “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion that occurs in the City.” Abortion is defined by 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.” Not only do the ordinances go further than the Texas Heartbeat Act by outlawing abortion at the moment of conception, but the ordinances add additional provisions protecting residents of these cities from abortion regardless of what city and state they are in.

The ordinances also state, “It shall be unlawful for any person to possess or distribute abortion-inducing drugs in the City.” The ordinances define “abortion-inducing drugs” as “mifepristone, misoprostol, and any drug or medication that is used to terminate the life of an unborn child.” In addition to this, the ordinance also makes anyone who mails abortion pills into these cities guilty of “aiding or abetting” the abortion that results — allowing them to be fined or sued for doing so.

When the news initially started to spread about the origins of the Texas Heartbeat Act, many who lived in cities whose leadership had opposed the ordinances were shocked and upset that their cities had chosen not to be a part of the movement. The success of both the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Ordinances and the Texas Heartbeat Act has only further solidified the point that cities who are outlawing abortion really are ahead of the curve. More cities are expected to outlaw abortion in the near future as we head towards a Post-Roe America.

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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