On Tuesday, the city council of Waskom, a small East Texas town in Harrison County, unanimously voted to declare their city a “sanctuary city for the unborn.” The measure will prevent any abortion providers from doing business in the city.
Waskom, with just over 2,000 residents, became the first city in Texas to do so.
According to the local news station KTAL/KMSS, supporters of the ordinance drew inspiration from Roswell, New Mexico, which passed a similar ordinance earlier this year.
In March, the Roswell city council members passed Resolution 19-28 which states, “innocent human life, including fetal life, must always be protected and that Society must protect those who cannot protect themselves.”
The resolution goes on to say, “the City Council honors the rights of healthcare providers to object on moral grounds to performing abortions and opposes any regulation or law seeking to violate that right.”
Waskom’s ordinance is more stringent and does not allow for an abortion facility to operate within the city limits.
According to Texas Right to Life, the ordinance does not penalize women who seek or undergo abortions, but does declare abortion as “unlawful” and “murder.”
There are currently no abortion providers in Waskom. However, with a Planned Parenthood facility only 22 miles away in Shreveport, Louisiana, pro-life advocates wanted to prevent a facility from opening in their community in light of the new abortion restrictions, particularly the legislation known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” passing in Louisiana.
“We decided to take things into our own hands, and we’ve got to do something to protect our cities and to protect the unborn children,” said Mark Dickson, director of East Texas Right to Life. Dickson led the movement to pass the ordinance, gaining widespread support from the community in the process.
During the 86th legislative session, legislators passed SB 22, which prohibits transactions between a governmental entity and an abortion provider or affiliate of the provider.
The bill contained an amendment, authored by Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford), that says the state will not “restrict a municipality or county from prohibiting abortion,” including cities like Waskom.
Despite these provisions, Americans United for Life ranks Texas outside of the top 10 most pro-life states, and a 2019 study by the Guttmacher Institute shows ten other states have protections for the unborn at earlier stages of development than Texas.
Mayor Jesse Moore warned attendees about the possibility of the town facing a lawsuit following the vote, stating the case “could go to the Supreme Court.”
“If we go to the Supreme Court, we’ll have to pay the other side of the attorney fees so…y’all save your nickel and pennies. We may need them,” Moore chuckled.
The final vote approving the ordinance was met with cheers from the packed room of attendees.