Texas city of Centerville becomes 33rd in nation to outlaw abortion

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Centerville, Texas (pop. 892), a city at the halfway point between Dallas and Houston, has become the 33rd city in the nation (and the 30th city in Texas) to pass an enforceable ordinance outlawing abortion within its city limits. The unanimous 5-0 vote by the Centerville City Council was met with enthusiastic applause from the packed crowd in attendance.

The effort to see abortion outlawed in Centerville began about two years ago when the City of Waskom was the only city to have outlawed abortion. Centerville resident Carly Hickman had been praying for a way to actively get involved in the fight to end abortion, and at her son’s ninth birthday party, Hickman heard from a friend about what Waskom had done.

While meetings had taken place with various residents throughout the community over the following year, the movement only began to gain real traction after several area pastors got involved after a Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn interest meeting at the Cowboy Church of Leon County.

At that meeting many in the community learned that Centerville City Attorney Charles D. Olson is currently married to Kris Kaiser Olson — the former board chair of Planned Parenthood and a very outspoken voice for abortion access throughout the State of Texas. This was an extremely concerning discovery for residents like Hickman.

“When we realized Centerville’s city attorney was literally in bed with Planned Parenthood we knew that we could not just assume that this ordinance was going to be passed without opposition,” shared Hickman. “We knew we had to make sure that we had a whole community of support before taking the initiative to the city council.”

Prior to the vote several community leaders shared their desire to see Centerville, as the county seat of Leon County, to help pave the way in making every city in Leon County a Sanctuary City for the Unborn. Leading the charge was David Faske, president of the Centerville Ministerial Fellowship, along with Pastor Tuffy Loftin of the Cowboy Church of Leon County in Centerville, Pastor Thomas Campbell of the Tri-Circle Ranch Christian Center in Leona, and Pastor Mark Gray of Life Church in Leona. In total, the City Council heard about 30 minutes of testimony from members of the community encouraging them to pass the ordinance outlawing abortion. No community members spoke against the measure.

Residents from throughout Centerville and beyond showed up to support the City Council in passing an ordinance outlawing abortion. (Photo: Mark Lee Dickson)

After the testimonies, Mayor Nolan Ray Goolsby shared, “I had our Secretary check with our attorney in Waco and he advised us to not take any action and we called TML (Texas Municipal League) and they told us the same thing but I want to go from my heart and what I have been praying about this.” After sharing about people whose existence played a role in impacting his life, Mayor Goolsby voiced his personal support for the ordinance and encouraged its passage. Councilman Michael Cannain made a motion to approve the ordinance and Councilwoman Carole Dickey seconded the motion. The City Council was unanimous in its decision to adopt the ordinance.

The Centerville Ordinance reads: “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 Centerville, Texas” and “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion that occurs in the City of Centerville, Texas.”

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.” The ordinance is clear that the term does not include birth control devices or oral contraceptives. The ordinance is also clear that the act is not an abortion if the act is done with the intent to “save the life or preserve the health of an unborn child” or “remove a dead, unborn child whose death was caused by accidental miscarriage” or “remove an ectopic pregnancy.”

In addition to outlawing abortion, the Centerville Ordinance also outlaws abortion-inducing drugs, stating, “It shall be unlawful for any person to possess or distribute abortion-inducing drugs in the City of Centerville, Texas.” The Ordinance defines “abortion-inducing drugs” as “mifepristone, misoprostol, and any drug or medication that is used to terminate the life of an unborn child.”

Mayor Nolan Ray Goolsby and the Centerville City Council pose for a picture after the historic vote outlawing abortion. (Photo: Mark Lee Dickson)

The Centerville Ordinance contains both public and private enforcement mechanisms. The public enforcement mechanism establishes fines against the abortionist and anyone who aids and abets the abortionist for any abortion which takes place within the City limits of Centerville. The ordinance is clear that these fines cannot be imposed unless it is determined by a state or federal court that 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, a state or federal court determines 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 the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

While the public enforcement mechanism’s enforcement is based on other factors, the private enforcement mechanism is immediately enforceable. The Centerville Ordinance states, “Any person… may bring a civil enforcement suit against a person or entity that commits or intends to commit an unlawful act…” This section is immediately enforceable and allows for anyone, including any relative of the unborn child, to sue the abortionist or anyone who aids and abets the abortionist for the death of the unborn child.

If Centerville faces a lawsuit as a result of the adoption of this ordinance, former Texas Solicitor General Jonathan F. Mitchell has agreed to represent the city of Centerville at no cost to the city and taxpayers for any litigation as a result of the passage of this ordinance.

Centerville follows the Texas cities of Levelland (pop. 14,582), Sundown (pop. 1,397), and Sterling City (pop. 888) as the fourth city to outlaw abortion since the lawsuit by Planned Parenthood against the City of Lubbock was dismissed in Federal Court. It is the 20th city to outlaw abortion since the ACLU withdrew its lawsuit against seven cities in East Texas.

Centerville is not expected to be the last city in Texas to outlaw abortion. Efforts are currently underway in cities throughout the state, including Leona (pop. 190), Eastland (pop. 3,970), Slaton (pop. 6,235), San Angelo (pop. 101,004), and Edinburg (pop. 101,170).

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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