City councils hold many responsibilities for the communities they serve, ranging from passing ordinances relating to public health and safety, including business. Six city councils in East Texas are taking up a self-appointed responsibility: restrictive ordinances forbidding abortion in their towns.
In Waskom, TX, a June 11 ordinance on the right to life was passed in a 5-0 vote. It declared Waskom “a sanctuary city for the unborn.”
“A surgical or chemical abortion is the purposeful and intentional ending of a human life and is murder ‘with malice aforethought’ since the baby in the womb has its own DNA,” the ordinance states. “And at certain points in pregnancy [ it ] has its own heartbeat and its own brainwaves.”
The history of abortion in the United States is about as tumultuous as one would expect. Though 1973’s Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision gave legal access to abortion, it has been an uphill battle to maintain safe access to abortion services.
The ordinance further declares organizations – such as Planned Parenthood, Jane’s Due Process and The Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equality, among others – as criminal due to the abortion services they provide.
The anti-abortion advocate behind the ordinances, lead pastor at SovereignLOVE Church Mark Lee Dickson, is working alongside his anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life, to travel to over 400 Texas municipalities to pitch the ban, the Washington Post reported.
“This is a local issue because it impacts the most vulnerable — the unborn child,” Dickson said to the Washington Post. “If we could do this in Texas, we can do this in cities and towns in Arizona, in Florida, in Iowa. It could happen all over the country.”
Gilmer, TX, became the most recent city to ban abortion on Sept. 24, passed with a 4-1 vote.
According to City Manager Greg Hutson, the ordinance is “constitutional and falls under Roe v. Wade because the city cannot enforce the measure unless the 1973 Supreme Court case legalizing abortion is overturned. Officials said, if the case is overturned, Gilmer now is prepared to immediately make abortion illegal inside the city limits,” the Longview News-Journal reported.
Though abortion has been outlawed, Gilmer city attorney Mike Martin said “he advised the council that the ordinance could increase the city’s chances to be liable in a lawsuit. But he added that certain parts of the ordinance could protect the city,” the Longview News-Journal continued.
“I think what we did was legal,” Martin said.
The accessibility of these services has been restricted to such a point that six states, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia, each only have one clinic left.
Texas is the second-largest state by population and area, but there are only 16 locations within the state that can provide abortions.
The fact that a constitutional right is being restricted by city councils within their towns is wrong. People deserve access to abortions, it is another form of healthcare, just like a well-visit to a doctor.
Providing access should not be up to town legislatures, even if the people on the council do not agree with abortion, it should not be their decision to decide whether or not people can have an abortion.