On Wednesday, August 5, the city commission of Eastland, Texas (pop. 3,970), passed an enforceable ordinance outlawing abortion within their city limits, joining the growing number of sanctuary cities for the unborn.

The unanimous 5-0 vote by the commission was the second and final vote needed for the ordinance to go into effect, making the City of Eastland the 31st in the state of Texas and the 34th in the nation to pass an enforceable ordinance outlawing abortion.

“Let’s speak the truth: An unborn child is a child. Once life enters the womb, that life must be protected,” City Commissioner Zac Darr said. “This ordinance prevents abortions from happening in our town. Abortion is a travesty, and it should not have been allowed to happen—ever! Here in Eastland, we will not allow the killing of innocent human beings—regardless of whether those human beings are inside or outside the womb.”

Eastland, located 55 miles east of Abilene, Texas, is the county seat of Eastland County and the third city in it to outlaw abortion this year. The other two are the neighboring cities of Carbon (pop. 348) and Gorman (pop. 1,083). All three unanimously passed their ordinances outlawing abortion.

The only city within Eastland County to have voted down the ordinance is the city of Rising Star (population 835). While Rising Star Mayor Jim Carpenter has been a vocal advocate for the ordinance’s passage, the loudest opposition on the Rising Star council has been Councilman Johnny Jack Hubbard and Councilwoman Betsy Herron. Hubbard believed that it was not an issue that the city council needed to vote on, stating it was far too personal of an issue. Herron said that she was for women’s rights and that women had the right to have an abortion.

The majority of Eastland County’s voting population are conservative Republicans, bringing home 87.24 percent (7,216) of the Republican vote in the 2020 presidential election. Eastland is the 17th city to pass an ordinance outlawing abortion since the Biden administration released a statement on January 22 of this year about their commitment to ensure everyone has abortion access in every zip code.

The Eastland ordinance states, “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 Eastland, Texas,” and “it shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion that occurs in the City of Eastland, 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. It’s also clear the act is not to be considered an abortion if it is 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 Eastland 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.”

If the Eastland City Council and the city faces a lawsuit as a result of the adoption of this ordinance, Attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell, the former Texas solicitor general, has agreed to represent the City of Eastland at no cost to the city and taxpayers.

A similar ordinance in Lubbock was challenged by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. That case was dismissed, with the Judge ruling they did not have standing. Abortion continues to remain outlawed, and Planned Parenthood is complying, having not committed any abortions since the ordinance went into effect on June 1st.

The City of Eastland was not the only city in Texas to discuss the possibility of outlawing abortion this week. On Tuesday, the City of Odessa discussed the possibility of placing the ordinance outlawing abortion on the November ballot to let the citizens decide.

Because of a recent statement made by one of the council members who had been against voting for the ordinance, Odessa residents were optimistic that they had the votes to send the ordinance to the November ballot. As reported in Odessa American, Councilman Tom Sprawls stated, “I said all along that I would support putting the issue on the ballot. … I’m not a right-to-lifer, but I will support giving voters the opportunity to make that decision.”

Since Sprawls had committed, Mayor Javier Joven was looking forward to Sprawls’ support to move the measure forward this November. Unfortunately, Sprawls stood against placing the ordinance on the ballot this soon. In council chambers, with much more vocal opposition to the measure, Councilman Sprawls said, “I don’t know what the rush is. … I don’t see the big deal in waiting (until the scheduled May elections), so we can share the cost with the school.” Despite the pushback, Mayor Joven does not intend to give up on his desire to see Odessa become a Sanctuary City for the Unborn—whether by council vote or a citywide election.

The Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative has taken great lengths to make sure each ordinance aligns with the city’s charter and is carefully drafted in accordance with all local, state, and federal laws. This is part of the reason why there is not a recommended text or model ordinance by which cities can simply fill in the blank. Those who are interested in seeing abortion outlawed in their community are encouraged to start by signing the online petition and sharing that petition throughout their circles of influence. When enough signatures are collected in that area, the signers of that petition will be notified about the interest meetings and council meetings they can attend to help make the passage of the ordinance a reality in their community.

More cities are expected to outlaw abortion in the near future.

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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