Criminal JusticeHealthcareIssuesLocal NewsDallas Resolution Seeking to Protect Abortion Clears First Hurdle in City Council Committee

Council members passed a resolution in committee to protect abortion access, but the city must still comply with state laws against abortion.
August 3, 2022
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The City of Dallas passed a resolution opposing the enforcement of abortion restrictions enacted by Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature.

Chairman Adam Bazaldua called a special meeting of the Quality of Life, Arts, and Culture Committee, which unanimously passed the resolution Tuesday afternoon.

“Given the recent wave of attacks on reproductive rights across the nation and Texas’ impending trigger law going into effect, it is time for Dallas to take action,” Bazaldua tweeted when he announced the meeting.

The resolution repeatedly references “pregnant people,” including pregnant women and biological women who identify as men. 

Council members contended in the document that “eliminating legal access to abortion has been empirically proven to dramatically increase the risk of death, bodily injury, and infertility, while doing little to reduce the incidence of abortion.”

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It also stated that the onus is on the City of Dallas to “protect its residents from any violation of their human rights.”

While much of the document is symbolic, it blocks the use of city resources for enforcing restrictions against abortion and pushes to the back burner any investigations into abortion except in cases such as a sexual assault probe.

Denton and Austin have passed similar ordinances.

However, the resolution stipulates that the city’s actions must comply with state and federal law.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that states have the right to regulate abortion and that there is no constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy or cause the death of an unborn child. In doing so, the court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that conferred a constitutional right to abortion.

The question of abortion has returned to the states, many of which had passed so-called trigger laws that were set to go into effect upon the reversal of Roe.

The Human Life Protection Act of 2021, Texas’ “trigger law,” makes it a first-degree felony for someone to perform an abortion on a pregnant woman. A first-degree felony carries a sentence of 5 to 99 years or life imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. The law takes effect August 25, exactly one month after the Supreme Court formally entered its judgment in Dobbs.

The act further provides that civil penalties of up to $100,000 may be imposed for violations of the act, enforceable by the state attorney general.

While cities can decide how to spend local tax revenue and pass ordinances, they are not entitled to override state law or somehow contravene the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs.

Cities function as political subdivisions of the State of Texas. The relationship between a city and the state is different from the compact between states and the federal government under the Constitution.

The City of Dallas would not have any say in a decision to charge someone with committing an illegal abortion in city limits. That responsibility falls to the district attorney’s office.

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot joined other district attorneys across the country pledging to avoid prosecuting abortion in Dallas County.

Faith Johnson, the Republican nominee for Dallas County district attorney, told The Texan in an interview this week that it is the prosecutor’s role to uphold the law.

“As a prosecutor, I am committed to upholding that law whatever it is. I’m committed to that. And that’s what we do as prosecutors,” Johnson said. “We don’t decide which law ought to be prosecuted in which law ought not to be prosecuted. That’s not our job.”

Though Johnson did not directly answer whether she would prosecute doctors who perform abortions, she implied that the Legislature has the authority to enact restrictions on abortion and it would not be within her domain as district attorney to oppose them.

Creuzot and Johnson will face one another in the general election on November 8.

A copy of the resolution can be found below.

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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."