87th LegislatureLocal NewsAustin City Council Curbs Enforcement of Abortion Crimes via Resolutions, Ordinance

One resolution declares that city funds will not be used to surveil or collect information about abortions.
July 21, 2022
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The Austin City Council passed a raft of resolutions and one ordinance today meant to honor “the rights of pregnant people to bodily autonomy and control over their private medical decisions.”

The ordinance forbids discrimination in city services, employment, housing rentals, and appraisals based on an individual’s receipt or provision of abortions.

The council also passed three abortion-related resolutions, generally meant to keep the city from participating in prosecutions of abortion crimes.

The first resolution declares that city funds will not be used to surveil or collect information about abortions. It also sets abortion crimes at the lowest priority for enforcement by city police and personnel. City leaders have dubbed it the Guarding the Right to Abortion Care for Everyone (GRACE) Act.

The second resolution directs the city manager to explore the creation of a birth control education program, especially emphasizing vasectomies.

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“[R]esponsibility for preventing pregnancy in cisgender heterosexual relationships disproportionately falls on women, including the associated time, attention, stress, and emotional and mental work,” the resolution reads.

The third resolution asks the city manager to evaluate the feasibility of giving city workers benefits to “help ensure they have access to reproductive health care services” no longer available under Texas law.

This last idea may face several obstacles in state law.

Most directly, “furnish[ing] the means for procuring an abortion” is a crime under the old abortion ban that regained effect once the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs v. Jackson case.

Additionally, it has been illegal since September 1 of last year to aid the abortion of unborn children with detectable heartbeats under the Texas Heartbeat Act, a state law.

Lastly, several Republicans in the Texas House have promised to file legislation in the 2023 legislative session that would authorize lawsuits against anybody who pays for the abortion of an unborn Texas resident.

Councilwoman Mackenzie Kelly (District 6), the lone self-professed Republican on the council, was absent. The votes on all four items were unanimous.

Notably, despite the unanimous votes, the council’s liberal majority remains divided on the use of “pregnant people” rather than “women” in the text of the resolutions and ordinance. Councilwoman Leslie Pool (District 7) has long been an especially outspoken opponent of the term.

The GRACE Act directs the city manager to present a report to the council on the resolution at their July 26 work session.

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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.