On Sunday, residents of the City of Athens (pop. 13,121) began the citizen initiative petition process outlined in their city charter to force a public vote on outlawing abortion within city limits.

According to the Athens City Charter, “Any initiated ordinance may be submitted to the city council by a petition signed by at least fifteen percent of the persons qualified to vote in city elections.” The number of qualified signatures which will need to be obtained of qualified voters for the City of Athens is about 1,100.

If the citizens of Athens are successful in collecting the necessary number of signatures then the Athens City Council will have the choice to either (1) “Pass the initiated ordinance without amendment within thirty days after the date of certification to the city council,” (2) “Submit said initiated ordinance without amendments to a vote of those qualified to vote in city elections in a regular . . . election to be held within ninety days after the date of the certification to the city council,” or (3) “At such election submit to a vote of those persons qualified to vote in city elections said initiated ordinance without amendment and an alternative ordinance on the same subject proposed by the city council.”

The Athens City Charter states, “All ordinances receiving a favorable vote in elections . . . shall thereupon become valid and binding ordinances of the city, and any such ordinance proposed by petition or which shall be adopted by a vote of the people, cannot be repealed or amended except by a vote of the people.”

Out of the 50 cities in the United States which have passed ordinances outlawing abortion, 49 cities have completed the process by a vote of their mayor and city council. The only sanctuary city for the unborn that did not outlaw abortion through their mayor and city council was the city of Lubbock, whose residents passed an ordinance outlawing abortion through the citizen initiative petition process. Passed on May 1, 2021, the Lubbock ordinance was adopted in a landslide election with 62 percent voting in favor of the ordinance and 38 percent voting against the ordinance. Having gone into effect on June 1, 2021, the ordinance has survived legal challenges and is the sole reason why no abortions have been committed by Planned Parenthood in Lubbock for over a year.

Due to similar citizen initiative petition processes, residents of the cities of San Angelo (pop. 101,612), Abilene (pop. 124,407), and Plainview (pop. 22,343) will be voting on city ordinances outlawing abortion in their November 8, 2022, elections. The citizen initiative version of the Athens Ordinance Outlawing Abortion is identical in substance to these ordinances—with one exception. The Athens ordinance contains five more findings, four of which are specific to Athens, Texas.

The first four findings of the Athens Ordinance Outlawing Abortion reads:

(1) Curtis Boyd, a notorious illegal abortionist during the 1960s and early 1970s, performed abortions in Athens, Texas, when abortion was a criminal offense in Texas and in most of the United States;

 

(2) The City Council is appalled that these violent and criminal acts occurred within city boundaries;

 

(3) Curtis Boyd openly boasts about the illegal abortions that he performed in Athens, Texas, see https://bit.ly/37YMUNr;

 

(4) The City Council of Athens, Texas, is determined to ensure that these murderous acts never again occur within city boundaries.

While it is unknown exactly how many illegal abortions Boyd committed in Athens during the 1960s and leading up until the time of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the video deposition taken in Whole Woman’s Health v. Paxton (2017) reveals that Boyd committed 10,000 illegal abortions in Athens in a period of two years.

The video deposition reads:

MR. STEPHENS: When did you start performing abortions?

CURTIS W. BOYD: Well, in 1968.

MR. STEPHENS: How many abortions did you perform, say, in the first five years were in Athens? Do you recall?

CURTIS W. BOYD: It would have been probably two years in Athens. I moved to Dallas. But I did not keep numbers, so probably 5,000 a year.

According to Curtis W. Boyd’s curriculum vitae, Boyd was the county health officer for Henderson County during this time, from 1964 to 1971. During this time Boyd also served on the Athens School Board, was a business partner with Athens City Councilman Earl Estep, and a member of the East Texas Chapter of the ACLU alongside Athens City Attorney Bill Kugle. Boyd was instrumental in getting sex education in Athens public schools and assisted Planned Parenthood in opening a clinic on the third floor of the Henderson County Courthouse. There is no reason to believe that Planned Parenthood performed abortions in the Henderson County Courthouse during this time.

If the Athens Ordinance Outlawing Abortion is passed, either by the city council or by the citizens of Athens, abortion would be outlawed within the city limits.

If the local government were to enforce the penalties for violating the Athens ordinance, 10,000 more babies would not have to die due to a lack of local and county government refusing to enforce the law. If passed, this ordinance would allow the citizens of Athens to do their part by filing a suit against the abortionist and anyone aiding and abetting the abortionist for the death of an unborn child.

If passed, the Athens Ordinance Outlawing Abortion would prohibit: (1) abortions within the city limits of Athens, (2) aiding and abetting abortion within the city limits of Athens, (3) the possession or distribution of abortion-inducing drugs in the city limits of Athens, (4) abortion coverage in employer-provided health insurance in the city limits of Athens, (5) abortions performed on residents of Athens—regardless of where the abortion takes place, and (6) abortions in Athens in violation of Texas law.

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, a pastor of SovereignLOVE Church in Longview, Texas, and the founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn initiative.

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