Centerville has joined the growing number of cities throughout the United States to pass ordinances outlawing abortion within their city limits.
The city, which prides itself on being known as the halfway point between Houston and Dallas, is located 123 miles slightly southeast of Dallas and is a perfect stopping point for travelers. What Centerville never wants to be a stopping point for, however, is an abortion.
Centerville is the county seat for Leon County, which is very conservative. In the 2020 presidential election, a total of 86.6 percent of Leon County residents voted Republican, 12.3 percent voted Democrat, and 1 percent voted for other candidates. During the 2018 Republican Party primary, voters in Leon County had the opportunity to vote on Proposition 7, which read, “I believe abortion should be abolished in Texas.” Out of 3,161 votes, 2,354 voted yes, and only 807 voted no.
This is why it should not be surprising to anyone that a city like Centerville became the 33rd in the nation, and the 30th in Texas, to pass an ordinance outlawing abortion within their city limits. Prior to the vote, several in the community urged their elected officials to make Centerville a sanctuary city for the unborn and help pave a path for the other cities in Leon County to follow.
After hearing from the community, Mayor Nolan Ray Goolsby said, “I had our secretary check with our attorney in Waco, and he advised us to not take any action. We called TML (Texas Municipal League), and they told us the same thing. But I want to go from my heart and what I have been praying about this.” Goolsby encouraged his city to pass the ordinance outlawing abortion. Councilman Michael Cannain made a motion to approve, and Councilwoman Carole Dickey seconded the motion. All five city council members voted for the ordinance.
The Centerville Ordinance Outlawing Abortion says, “It shall be unlawful for any person to procure or perform an abortion of any type and at any stage of pregnancy in the City of Centerville, Texas.” It also says it shall be unlawful “for any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion that occurs in the City of Centerville, Texas.”
Abortion is defined by the ordinance as “the act of using or prescribing an instrument, a drug, a medicine, or any other substance, device, or means with the intent to cause the death of an unborn child of a woman known to be pregnant.” The ordinance is clear that the term does not include birth-control devices or oral contraceptives and that the act is not an abortion if it’s done with the intent to “save the life or preserve the health of an unborn child,” “remove a dead, unborn child whose death was caused by accidental miscarriage,” or “remove an ectopic pregnancy.”
There is one other exception listed in the ordinance, and that is a very narrow exception for cases where the mother’s life is at risk. This is listed as an affirmative defense and falls upon the one performing the abortion to provide that defense if necessary. This is outlined by the ordinance as abortions in cases where the abortion is “in response to a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy that, as certified by a physician, places the woman in danger of death or a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless an abortion is performed.”
In addition to outlawing abortion, the Centerville ordinance also outlaws abortion-inducing drugs, stating, “It shall be unlawful for any person to possess or distribute abortion-inducing drugs in the City of Centerville, Texas.” The ordinance defines “abortion-inducing drugs” as “mifepristone, misoprostol, and any drug or medication that is used to terminate the life of an unborn child.”
Unlike sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants, cities that have adopted the sanctuary cities for the unborn ordinances are not violating any federal laws. This is because the entire ordinance stands in line with the United States Constitution, the Texas Constitution, and all federal and state laws.
When Planned Parenthood sued the City of Lubbock for passing an ordinance outlawing abortion, Judge Hendrix asked Solicitor General Judd Stone to weigh in on the state law question. The solicitor general was clear, stating, “The Texas Legislature has clarified that state law does not prevent cities like Lubbock from imposing regulations like those that Planned Parenthood challenges.” Stone quoted from the recently enacted Texas Heartbeat Act, which 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.” General Stone affirmed in his letter before Judge Hendrix’s federal court that the Lubbock ordinance was consistent with state law.
Centerville’s mayor and city council do not stand alone. Standing behind them is an entire community against abortion ever entering into their community. Hundreds of petitions were collected throughout Centerville, all from people who never want to see abortion services in their city.
Among those was Carly Hickman, who wrote, “I was conceived in 1987, after 14 years of Roe v. Wade being considered the ‘law of the land,’ out of wedlock, to a divorced, single mother of two born children, who had already had her tubes ‘tied’ (aka: she had already CHOSEN not to have any more children).”
“My father was not exactly planning to have a child, either. In fact, I was the furthest thing from their minds,” Hickman continued. “The reality is not lost on me that I was the prime target for an abortion. … I could have been aborted, but [I] obviously wasn’t. Thirty years of marriage later, my parents went on to have three more children after me, … a total of 17 grandchildren altogether, and one more on the way! So, lest you think that just one life is saved when the unborn are protected from abortion, think again.”
Upon hearing the news, Centerville gained praise in Facebook posts from mayors and city council members throughout the United States. From within Texas, the city received praise from mayors and city council members from Joaquin, Big Spring, Whiteface, Ackerly, Goldsmith, Eastland, and Odessa. From outside Texas, mayors and city council members from Hayes Center, Nebraska, and the Ohio towns of Lebanon, South Lebanon, Celina, and Mason heaped praise.
“As a city councilman from the fourth city which outlawed abortion, I can say that the more cities pass these ordinances, the more we realize just how many friends we have,” Councilman Mike Cummings from Joaquin, Texas, stated. “People ought not to believe everything the media tells them. Most of Texas, most of America, is pro-life! Thank God for Centerville, Texas, reminding us all of that again last night.”
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