Directly following the decision, local pastor Ryan Buck, who has led the effort to pass the ordinance in San Angelo, handed the city clerk a letter requiring that the proposal be put up for election in November — an outcome that some citizens suspect was determined months ago by city leadership behind the scenes.
According to the process laid out in the city charter, the proposal is no longer in the city council’s hands at this point. Once the councilors reject an ordinance set before them by a petition, then the petitioners can require a citywide vote.
The proposed ordinance would ban abortion in San Angelo and declare the city a “Sanctuary City for the Unborn.” Following the East Texas town of Jewett, San Angelo would be the 41st town in Texas to join the initiative, which began in Waskom in 2019 and was founded by White Oak native Mark Lee Dickson.
The ordinances are crafted to comply with Roe v. Wade and other Supreme Court abortion precedent, which blocks governments from unduly burdening a woman’s access to abortion before the point of viable birth.
First, San Angelo’s ordinance would authorize lawsuits against anybody that violates it. Since this would allow citizens to enforce the law rather than the government, this method would stymie attempts to sue the City of San Angelo. As Dickson noted at the March 1 meeting, this civil enforcement method is similar to the Texas Heartbeat Act, which followed the “sanctuaries.”
Secondly, the ordinance would allow the city to penalize violators, but only under certain strict legal conditions. Under the ordinance, no government official can impose or threaten a penalty “unless and until” the U.S. Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade, a court declares that the penalty would not impose an undue burden on women seeking abortions, or a court rules that the violator lacks standing to assert the rights of women seeking abortions in court.
Any abortion not meant to save the mother’s life would be outlawed. Carrying out, paying for, or aiding an abortion in any way would be illegal. Abortifacient drugs would be contraband, and possession of those drugs would be unlawful as well. The ordinance would not ban the removal of a dead unborn child or an ectopic pregnancy. The mother of the unborn child that has been aborted may not be sued or penalized.
Unlike Jewett’s ordinance, San Angelo’s ordinance would also apply to residents of San Angelo regardless of the location where the abortion was performed.
“It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion performed on a resident of San Angelo, Texas,” the proposed ordinance reads.
San Angelo likely won’t be alone in November. Although the vast majority of the “sanctuaries” passed their ordinances through their respective councils, opposition from city brass in some larger towns has prompted activists to seek passage through citywide votes in Plainview, Lindale, and Abilene.
Plainview has a hearing scheduled on March 8 to discuss the ordinance. Lindale will have a hearing on March 24.
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