On Tuesday, September 13, the City Council of Chandler (pop. 3,476), considered an ordinance outlawing abortion and abortion trafficking within their city limits. While the majority of those in attendance were in favor of the ordinance, council members Janeice Lunsford and Stacey Dickson led the charge to defeat the ordinance—breaking the hearts of many.

The proposed Chandler Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance would have (1) prohibited elective abortions and the aiding or abetting of elective abortions within city limits – extending the private enforcement mechanism found in the Texas Heartbeat Act from the point of detectable heartbeat to the point of conception, (2) prohibited elective abortions or the aiding or abetting of elective abortions on residents who live within the city limits – regardless of the location of the abortion, (3) prohibited the manufacturing, possession, or distribution of abortion-inducing drugs within the city limits, (4) prohibited abortion trafficking and the aiding or abetting of abortion trafficking within the city limits – making it illegal for abortion traffickers to use any roads or runways within the city limits, (5) prohibited any person within the city limits from knowingly paying for or reimbursing the costs associated with obtaining an elective abortion performed on another person – regardless of the location of the abortion, (6) prohibited the transport of the remains of unborn children who have been killed by an elective abortion from any abortion provider into the city limits, or to dispose of such remains within the city limits, and, lastly, would have (7) prohibited organizations seeking to profit off of the murder of innocent children from operating or doing business within the city limits.

The closest abortion facilities to Chandler, Texas are Trust Women Wichita, Aria Medical, and Planned Parenthood Wichita Health Center, all which are located in Wichita, Kansas – about 385 miles away. For help explaining the process one goes through during a medical abortion, Trust Women Wichita refers their website visitors to a comic book from the Reproductive Health Access Project. In the comic, an individual named Sam (which identifies as They/Them) finds themselves pregnant, takes abortion-inducing drugs, and then debates on whether or not they should adopt a kitten.

According to their website, Reproductive Health Access Project “seeks to use language that does not discriminate or reproduce binary schemes” in order to give “gender neutrality to the words that allude directly to characters in the zine.” The web zine seeks to normalize the idea of using medication abortion – as if it was not a big deal to have an abortion.

Trust Women Wichita only allows the abortion pill through 11 weeks and surgical abortions through 21 weeks, 6 days. Aria Medical allows the abortion pill through 11 weeks. And Planned Parenthood Wichita Health Center allows the abortion pill through 11 weeks and surgical abortions only through 13 weeks, 6 days. Had the ordinance passed, Chandler residents would have been protected from abortions performed at these facilities.

The ordinance had the support of several churches, nonprofits and businesses in the City of Chandler, the Henderson County Republican Party, the East Texas Minority Coalition, the Catholic Diocese of Tyler, Right To Life of East Texas, and Alliance for a Safe Texas, and 20 Republican Senators and Representatives from throughout the great state of Texas.

Instead of siding with these conservative organizations and leaders throughout the state of Texas, the Chandler City Council sided with the Henderson County Democrat Party, the Smith County Democrat Party, the Cherokee County Democrat Party, the Van Zandt County Democrat Party, the Rains County Democrat Party, the Anderson County Democrat Party, and the Women’s March – all who had mobilized against the abortion trafficking ordinance and had members in attendance. Chandler City Attorney Blake Armstrong and City Administrator John Whitsell were also opposed to the ordinance, stating the ordinance was in violation of state law.

Due to the size of the crowd, not everyone was able to fit in the small council chambers. Because of this, the community center was opened up to serve as overflow. Savannah Rodriguez, a 15-year old supporter of the measure, watched the meeting from the overflow room with her Mom intently from beginning to end. After the meeting, Savannah observed, “Much disrespect was displayed between the city council members aimed towards the mayor. If you don’t agree with someone politically or with their ideas and opinions, that’s your inherent God-given right to disagree; however, you should still treat them with respect and dignity, especially if you are a Christian.” Rodriguez continued, “Unfortunately, those who claimed to be pro-life rejected a specific ordinance directed toward stopping abortion trafficking that exploits women and young girls’ abuse and trauma to justify ending an innocent life. Seeing that the city council would not pass it, it became abundantly clear to me that these were not people who uphold pro-life values.”

The vote was 5-0 against the ordinance which would have outlawed abortion and abortion trafficking throughout the City of Chandler. The effort to defeat the ordinance, on council, was led by council members Janeice Lunsford and Stacey Dickson. After the vote, another motion was made by Councilwoman Lauren Fletcher for an amended ordinance which had only three provisions, but it died for a lack of a second.

The three provisions of the amended ordinance (1) prohibited abortion and aiding and abetting an abortion within the city limits of Chandler (extending the private enforcement mechanism of the Texas Heartbeat Act from the point of a detectable heartbeat to the moment of conception), (2) prohibited the mailing of abortion-inducing drugs into Chandler, Texas, and (3) prohibited the trafficking of minors across state lines for an abortion.

Many in attendance were shocked that the professing “pro-life” Chandler City Council could not even give a second on an amended ordinance which only had these three provisions.

Alliance for a Safe Texas President Sheena Rodriguez, who was present at Tuesday night’s meeting, shared, “It’s disingenuous for someone to claim they are pro-life then work so hard against a pro-life ordinance. The local residents showed up overwhelmingly supporting the ordinance and sadly their voices were ignored. It is very disturbing that even an amended ordinance set to protect against child abortion trafficking without parental consent was overwhelmingly shot down by the Chandler city council members. If this was an uncomfortable vote for the city of Chandler council, imagine how uncomfortable it is for child sexual assault and sex trafficking victims.”

An overwhelming majority of those who vote in Henderson County are conservative Republican voters. In the 2020 Presidential Election, 80% voted Republican. During the 2022 Republican Party Primary, 88% voted in favor of a proposition defending innocent human life from the point of conception till natural death.

The vote by the leadership of the City of Chandler went against several Republican Party of Texas 2022 Party Platform planks, especially Plank 36, Plank 167, and Plank 217—specifically subsections (a)(b)(c)(d)(f) and (j). The vote also went against a previous Republican Party of Texas Platform Plank from 2020, which read, “We support the right of Texas municipalities to protect mothers and preborn children in their communities by passing enforceable city ordinances that ban abortions and abortion industry businesses within their city limits.” Over 92% of Republican Party of Texas delegates voted in favor of this plank being added to their party platform.

Chandler resident Tracie LeBlanc was extremely disappointed in the vote of her city council. “Look at all the pro-life churches in this town, this should have went through. Some of these council members need to be voted out.” LeBlanc continued, “Someone has to be a voice for those unborn babies and if some of our city leaders are not going to be those voices, then we need to replace those leaders in May.”

The Chandler Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance is expected to return to the City Council agenda in June 2024—if not sooner.

This is a commentary published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to submission@texasscorecard.com.

Mark Lee Dickson

Mark Lee Dickson is a director with Right to Life of East Texas and the founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative.

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