On Tuesday, February 22, 2022, at 2:22 p.m. the Citizen Initiative Committee to outlaw abortion in the City of Abilene turned in more than 10,000 signatures to Abilene City Hall.

Scott Beard, pastor of FountainGate Fellowship, was one of the members of the initiating committee who was present to submit the signatures. Pastor Scott Beard shared, “What an exciting day it is in Abilene to finally be able to turn in over 10,000 signatures to our city secretary – that will force the city council to either vote up or down on Abilene becoming a sanctuary city for the unborn.”

Besides Pastor Scott Beard, members of the initiating committee who were present to submit the signatures were Scott’s wife, Kim Beard; Taylor County Precinct #105 Chairman Charles Byrn; Pastor Chuck Farina with New Hope Church; insurance agent Monica Butler; and coffee business owner Carlie Cooper.

Abilene residents and allies of the effort pose for a picture after dropping off 10,081 signatures with the city secretary.

The date of February 22, 2022, was significant to those who were present for the submission of the signatures. Pastor Scott Beard shared, “It’s interesting that the first opportunity that we have to officially file these signatures is today: February 22, 2022 (2-22-22). In fact, to complete the 22 theme, we’re going to turn them in at 2:22 p.m. and 22 seconds. You might ask why the number 22 is so significant. For several months now, several notable prophetic voices in our country have pointed to Isaiah 22.22.”

Isaiah 22:22 reads, “Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, ‘When he opens no one will shut, when he shuts no one will open.” Pastor Beard continued, “In this verse, the prophet Isaiah is prophesying about the coming messiah — Jesus! When Jesus opens a door — no man will be able to shut it. When He shuts a door no one will be able to open it. I believe in this context – that the door to legalized abortion in our nation is being forever shut that will never be opened again. And that Jesus has begun the process of opening doors of righteousness being restored in our nation that no man will be able to shut!!”

Abilene resident Carlie Cooper, Right To Life of East Texas Director Mark Lee Dickson, and Abilene community resident Tai Ann McClendon pray over the signatures before their submission to the city secretary of Abilene.

The most recent city to pass an ordinance outlawing abortion was the City of Jewett (pop. 1,250). The Jewett City Council, like 43 of the 44 cities which have outlawed abortion, passed their ordinance through a vote of their mayor and city council. The only city which did not adopt an ordinance outlawing abortion through a vote of their mayor and city council is the City of Lubbock (pop. 264,000).

While many throughout Abilene have wanted to see their mayor and city council vote to outlaw abortion, their city leadership has never been willing to place the ordinance on their agenda as an actual action item. Due to the inaction of their city council, the initiating committee was formed and was left with no other choice but to begin the process outlined in their city charter.

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. Over the course of 81 days the initiating committee collected a total of 10,081 signatures – all of which they turned in on Tuesday.

While the initiating committee is confident that they have well over the minimum number of required signatures, the city secretary has 20 days to “determine whether such petition is signed by a sufficient number of qualified voters and whether it has a proper affidavit attached of the person filing same” (Article III, Section 37). If the city secretary determines that the initiating committee has collected the appropriate number of qualified petition signatures then a hearing will be scheduled within 30 days where the Abilene City Council would either have to adopt the ordinance outlawing abortion in the exact form proposed, or for the ordinance to be placed on the ballot for the voters of Abilene to decide in the November 2022 election.

Abilene is the fourth city whose citizens have turned in citizen initiative petition signatures this year, following the cities of San Angelo (pop. 101,612), Lindale (pop. 6,730), and Plainview (pop. 22,343). While signatures are still being verified in Plainview, the cities of San Angelo and Lindale have already gone through the certification process and have scheduled public hearings. The public hearing for San Angelo will be March 1, and the public hearing for Lindale will be March 24.

More cities are expected to consider outlawing abortion in the comings weeks, but most are expected to consider the ordinance through a vote of their mayor and city council. Citizens who are interested in seeing abortion outlawed in their city are encouraged to sign Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn’s online petition, which serves a much different purpose and is not to be confused with citizen initiative petitions.

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.