Blackwell, who was born and raised in the community, pleaded with the council to “do the right thing” and vote in favor of the proposed “Sanctuary City for the Unborn” ordinance that would effectively abolish abortion within city limits.
Late in the evening, after dozens of supporters in the crowded room spoke in favor of the ordinance, the Rusk city council approved the measure in a 3-2 vote.
Cheers erupted from the audience at the decision.
The East Texas town south of Tyler had considered the measure last year, but it was postponed to this month so that all members of the council would be present for the vote.
Mark Lee Dickson, the director of Right to Life of East Texas, has been helping rally citizens to encourage their city councils to pass the ordinance and was at the meeting on Thursday night.
“Tonight the City Council of Rusk made the common-sense decision that babies will not be allowed to be murdered in Rusk,” Dickson told The Texan. “In doing so they became the largest city in the nation, thus far, to outlaw abortion within their city limits. Rusk is the County seat of Cherokee County and I expect that the other great cities in this county will follow the city of Rusk’s lead in protecting the most innocent and vulnerable among us from the baby murdering abortion industry.”
While the ordinance in Rusk does not prohibit emergency contraception, it does prohibit surgical or medical abortions from being performed within the city limits.
The ordinances are protected by a new state law prohibiting transactions between government entities and abortion services.
While that bill, SB 22, was being drafted by the state legislature last year, it was amended by Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) to include a provision that the state will not “restrict a municipality or county from prohibiting abortion.”
Waskom, a town just thirty miles from Shreveport, Louisiana, was the first in the state to pass the ordinance last June.
Westbrook became the first city in West Texas to pass the ordinance when they voted unanimously in favor of it in November.
Critics of the ordinance have said that it has the potential to cause a costly lawsuit for the city or drive away businesses, though there has yet to be any legal challenges to the Texas ordinances and there has been no indication of a negative economic impact on the rural, conservative towns that have opted to become “sanctuaries for the unborn.”
The movement has been described as an “epidemic” by a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, a progressive activist group that is fundraising to oppose the sanctuary ordinances.
“This practice of using policy to chip away at access and antagonize those needing abortion care is highly dangerous,” the ACLU website says. “That’s why we need to fight back now.”
But supporters of the ordinance are undeterred by the pro-choice activist groups and most, like Blackwell, are not worried about legal or economic challenges — they see it as a moral duty.
“Abortion is straight out of hell,” Blackwell had said to the council. “If you call yourself a Christian and vote this down, then you do not represent Christ who gives life.”
Next week, Big Spring is expected to consider the ordinance at their next city council meeting on Tuesday evening.
The ordinance in Big Spring, a West Texas town of about 28,000, was originally planned to be considered in December, but was postponed until the new year.
In anticipation of a large attendance, the city council has moved their meeting to a larger auditorium.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.