Local NewsSterling City Becomes 29th ‘Sanctuary City for the Unborn’ in Texas, Adopting Broadest Ordinance Yet

The ordinances in participating Texas "sanctuaries" have evolved and possibly culminated in the small town of Sterling City.
June 24, 2021
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This week, two new Texas towns moved to outlaw abortion in city limits.

The city council of Sterling City voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance. Eastland voted unanimously to have their city attorney work on crafting an ordinance that will then face a second vote.

By passing the ordinance yesterday, Sterling City became the 29th “Sanctuary City for the Unborn” in Texas, enabling citizens to sue anyone that performs or aids an abortion. New additions to the ordinance explicitly encompass drugs used for chemical abortions, also known as remote abortions, reflecting the evolving nature of the “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn” initiative.

“If anyone sends RU-486 by mail to anyone within the city limits of Sterling City, Texas there will be consequences under this ordinance,” initiative founder Mark Lee Dickson said of a common abortifacient pill also known as mifepristone.

Previous versions of the ordinance have not specifically mentioned abortifacient drugs, though they have criminalized remote abortions. In Goldsmith, for example, it is illegal to give instructions regarding self-administered abortions under the section that prohibits “aiding or abetting an abortion.”

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The Sterling City ordinance totally outlaws mifepristone and other abortifacient pills in town limits.

“It shall be unlawful for any person to possess or distribute abortion-inducing drugs… and it shall be unlawful for any person to mail or ship abortion-inducing drugs into the City of Sterling City, Texas.”

Other changes in the ordinance have also aligned it more closely with the statewide “Texas Heartbeat Act”, a newly passed law that bans abortions after a detectable pulse in the womb. Like the “sanctuary” ordinances, the heartbeat act relies on individual lawsuits for enforcement.

For example, the ordinance originally held violators liable to the living kin of the aborted child. In other words, the power to sue violators was limited to the family.

However, Sterling City’s ordinance lets any citizen sue any violator, similar to the Heartbeat Act.

The version that was passed in Lubbock — the 24th “sanctuary” in Texas — acted as a hinge between the originally narrow and eventually broad standing that the ordinances confer. The Lubbock ordinance allows both family members and unrelated citizens to sue, but only for particular damages. In Lubbock, living kin of the aborted child may sue for compensatory or punitive damages, and any private citizen can sue for injunctive relief or statutory damages.

The unanimous vote yesterday in Eastland to set the process in motion to adopt the ordinance spells success for the movement there as well. Eastland would be the 30th “sanctuary” in Texas.

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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.

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