On Thursday, April 14, the city council of the City of Abilene, Texas (population 124,407), heard from residents regarding the passage of an enforceable ordinance outlawing abortion within their city limits. The ordinance, which requires two readings, was on the council’s consent agenda.

The ordinance was placed on the agenda as a result of a successful citizen initiative campaign, where area leaders turned in more than 10,000 petition signatures and then collected an additional 1,500+ signatures. The Abilene City Charter indicated that in order for their citizen initiative petition to be successful, they needed to collect signatures equal to 10 percent of qualified voters as of the last municipal election. According to the Abilene city attorney, the number of qualified signatures needed was 6,483. The goal was met, and the ordinance was added to the council’s agenda.

Prior to the vote on the consent agenda, 18 people in attendance signed up to go on the record with their support of the ordinance, including three candidates running against Councilman Kyle McAlister (Place 5) and Councilman Travis Craver (Place 6). Not a single person spoke in opposition to the enforceable ordinance. Although the ordinance passed on the consent agenda, it is believed that the ordinance may not survive the second reading on April 28.

Supporters of the Ordinance gather for a picture after the City Council Meeting held at the library at the Abilene Mall.

In a recent city council candidate forum at Abilene Christian University, Councilman McAlister expressed opposition to the measure, saying, “The city of Abilene does not have the ability to criminalize abortions.” In another forum, speaking against the ordinance, McAlister shared that the council “doesn’t get to pick and choose which laws we want to defend and not defend” and that “the sanctuary city for the unborn wants the city to make something illegal that is currently legal.”

McAlister’s statements directly collide with statements made in the Abilene Ordinance Outlawing Abortion, which leans heavily on the Pre-Roe v. Wade criminal abortion statutes and the Texas Heartbeat Act. The Abilene ordinance reads, “The State of Texas has never repealed its pre-Roe v. Wade statutes that outlaw and criminalize abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger,” and “The Texas Legislature has reaffirmed the continued existence and validity of the State’s pre-Roe v. Wade criminal abortion statutes.” The ordinance goes on to say, “The law of Texas explicitly allows municipalities and political subdivisions to outlaw and prohibit abortion, and to establish penalities and remedies against those who perform or enable unlawful abortions.”

Texas Government Code 311.036(b), which is referenced by the ordinance, states, “A statute may not be construed to restrict a political subdivision from regulating or prohibiting abortion in a manner that is at least as stringent as the laws of this state unless the statute explicitly states that political subdivisions are prohibited from regulating or prohibiting abortion in the manner described by the statute.”

To date, a total of 47 cities across the United States have passed ordinances outlawing abortion within their city limits. A total of 42 of those cities are located in Texas, with the latest being the City of Lindale (pop. 6,730). If the city council does not choose to adopt the ordinance on the second reading on April 28, then the ordinance will go on the November 8 ballot to be voted on by the citizens of Abilene.

The City of Abilene was first approached regarding outlawing abortion in July 2019. While the movement has seen opposition, it has also seen much support.

Right To Life of East Texas, Students For Life of America, Students For Life of America Action, Raiders Defending Life at Texas Tech, Young Conservatives of Texas at Texas Tech, Abilene Christian University For Life, Young Conservatives of Texas at Abilene Christian University, and Students For Life at University of Texas at San Antonio were just some of the many groups that came together to help Abilene collect the necessary number of signatures needed to force the measure for a vote by the Abilene City Council.

Support also came from Sen. Charles Perry, Mayor Shannon Thomason from Big Spring, and Mayor Javier Joven from Odessa; each made special trips to the city to speak in favor of Abilene outlawing abortion.

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.