Throughout the past year, several political issues at the local level have grabbed the attention of Texans: municipalities have begun passing ordinances declaring themselves “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn,” over 50 counties in the state have passed resolutions to declare their support of the Second Amendment, and the Austin City Council sparked controversy with its policy that allowed homeless individuals to camp on city property.
On Monday, the city council of Wells, Texas unanimously passed three ordinances tackling all three issues: a “Sanctuary City for the Unborn” ordinance to effectively outlaw abortion; a “Second Amendment Sanctuary Ordinance” to prohibit city participation in the enforcement of certain unconstitutional firearm restrictions; and an ordinance that prohibits the act of camping in public areas.
All three ordinances passed without any opposition on the council.
Sanctuary City for the Unborn
With the passage of this ordinance, Wells has become the twelfth city in Texas to pass an ordinance that effectively outlaws abortion.
Mark Lee Dickson, the director of Right to Life of East Texas, has been leading the movement to rally concerned, pro-life citizens to urge their city councils to adopt the abortion bans.
In a phone interview with The Texan, city council member Matt Myer said that of the three ordinances, the one declaring a sanctuary for the unborn was closest to his heart.
“I want this vote to show our young people that we don’t have to have a culture that is okay with the status quo of people being able to go down and kill their babies,” he said.
The Wells’ ordinance prohibits abortions from being performed within city limits, makes it unlawful “for any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion that occurs in the City,” and outlaws the sale of emergency contraception from entities residing within city limits.
It also declares abortion providers and their affiliates as “criminal organizations,” and states that “rulings or opinions from the Supreme Court that purport to establish or enforce a ‘constitutional right’ to abort an unborn child” are considered “unconstitutional usurpations of judicial power.”
The city and its employees are restricted from enforcing the measures “unless and until” the decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey are overruled by the Supreme Court, at which point violators will be “subject to the maximum penalty permitted under Texas law.”
But under the ordinance, private citizens related to the unborn child who is aborted are permitted to sue those who committed or assisted in committing the abortion (not including the mother of the unborn child) for compensatory damages such as for emotional distress, punitive damages, and the costs such as attorneys’ fees.
Second Amendment Sanctuary
“Second Amendment sanctuaries” have also spread across the state in the past six months, though they have mostly been declared by county commissioners that have wider constitutional authority over all county business, including law enforcement.
These pro-Second Amendment resolutions have taken on a variety of forms and titles, with some counties deviating from the title of “sanctuary” in favor of a synonym having less of a connection to the “sanctuary cities” that harbor illegal immigrants.
Many have included a provision stating that the county will refuse to authorize or appropriate funds or resources to enforce unconstitutional gun restrictions, while some have simply passed resolutions reaffirming their constitutional oaths.
Cherokee County, where Wells is located, passed a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution on November 26 of last year that included a pledge to prohibit enforcement of unconstitutional firearm regulations.
The ordinance passed by Wells follows a template provided by the Gun Owners of America, which contains more specific guards against violations of the Second Amendment than most resolutions that have passed at the county level in Texas.
It specifically rejects “any federal or state act, law, order, rule, or regulation which bans or effectively bans, registers or effectively registers, or limits the lawful use of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition (other than a fully automatic firearm).”
Camping Ban Ordinance
Wells’ third ordinance outlawed the camping in public areas within city limits “when it reasonably appears, in light of all circumstances, that the person, in conducting these activities, is in fact using the area for living accommodation purposes regardless of the intent of the person or nature of any other activities which they may also be engaging.”
Under the ordinance, camping includes not only living in tents or constructing other temporary shelters, but also “parking of a motor vehicle, motor home, or trailer for the apparent purpose of overnight occupancy.”
That provision would not affect travelers through the town who need to stop for a rest break, but would prohibit living out of a vehicle on public property.
Myer, originally from a small town in Oregon, described a problem he saw there after the city began allowing homeless individuals to begin camping in front of the public library.
“They were urinating right there in the public parking lot grounds and grass, setting up their camps, and causing a major nuisance,” said Myer. “Tax paying citizens were afraid to go to the library.”
“As a city here, we’re trying to avoid that…so that we don’t ever have to deal with it,” he said.
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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.