An occasionally tense Abernathy city council meeting ended with a unanimous vote for the ordinance, which outlaws abortion in town limits. It uses civil lawsuits as its most immediate enforcement mechanism: the living kin of aborted children can sue their abortionists, but not the mother, under the law.
During the meeting, one of the council members motioned to bring the ordinance to a general election vote, eliciting boos from the packed chamber. Shortly thereafter, another motion to pass the ordinance was quickly seconded and passed.
“People don’t want their city councils to put these things up for a public vote,” said Mark Lee Dickson, founder of the Sanctuary Cities of the Unborn Initiative.
“They want their mayor and city council to pass this rather than have to do a citywide election… People want their mayor and city council to actually have the cojones to do something.”
It was the first meeting that Mayor Ron Johnson led after winning his May 1 election.
Abernathy follows Lubbock, its neighbor to the south as well as the 24th and biggest “Sanctuary” to date. Lubbock citizens adopted the ordinance in a general election on May 1 after the city government quailed, avoiding and later voting down the proposal unanimously.
The City of Lubbock had taken the official stance that the ordinance would violate both the Texas and U.S. Constitutions. Each individual member of the city council made similar arguments during the marathon meeting when they voted unanimously against it.
The ordinance passed in the Lubbock election roughly 62 to 38 percent.
Poynor’s vote for the ordinance was also unanimous. The small town of about 300 people sits nestled among the eastern cluster of “Sanctuaries,” which have tended to gather at the state’s extremes.
The initiative began in the East Texas town of Waskom in 2019, taking inspiration from a more symbolic resolution passed in Roswell earlier that year.
Mike Cummings, a city councilman from the fellow “sanctuary” of Joaquin, presented alongside Dickson at the Abernathy meeting. Joaquin and six other towns that adopted the ordinance previously were defendants in a lawsuit on the part of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The lawsuit targeted the language of the ordinances, arguing that the designation of abortion facilities as “criminal organizations” supressed lawful speech. The lawsuit was later dropped.
After the Lubbock election, the ACLU released a statement suggesting that the city’s ordinance violates the Constitution.
Below is a map of all “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn” in Texas.
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