UPDATE: House Bill 1515 currently has 52 co-authors. 

Latexo has become the 23rd city to pass an enforceable ordinance outlawing abortion within their city limits.

The unanimous 4-0 vote took place on Monday, March 15 at Latexo City Hall.

The Latexo 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 Latexo, Texas” and “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion that occurs in the City of Latexo.”

The ordinance defines abortion 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.”

While Latexo, located about 75 miles south of Tyler and about 120 miles north of Houston, has a small population of only 233, it’s home to the Latexo Independent School District which draws in students from around the area, including the unincorporated north-central part of Houston County, and a small part of the City of Crockett. Latexo ISD has two campuses with a total enrollment of 453 students during the 2019-2020 school year.

Many in the community believe that their city outlawing abortion sends a strong message to the students who attend the schools in their community. That message is not just “abortion [is] not the answer,” but that it will never even be an option within the city limits.

“In my seventy years I’ve seen many changes,” Latexo resident Bobbie Sissom said. “As a public health servant for over 35 years, I know personally of the regrets of those who made this choice.”

Praise God for our dedicated city councilmen that are planning for the future.

Sissom isn’t alone in his views. Most Houston County voters are conservative Republicans who wish to see abortion outlawed in Texas.

During Houston County’s 2016 Presidential Election 74.3 percent (6,205) voted Republican, 23.7 percent (1,978) voted Democrat, and 2.0 percent (170) voted for other candidates. During the 2018 Republican Party Primary, voters had the opportunity to vote on proposition 7, expressing if they were “In Favor” or “Against” this following statement: ” I believe abortion should be abolished in Texas.”

In Houston County, out of 2,528 votes, 1,972 voted in favor of the idea while 556 voted against.

The Latexo ordinance, which immediately outlawed abortion, has two major enforcement mechanisms: the public enforcement mechanism and the private enforcement mechanism.

The public enforcement mechanism establishes fines against the abortionist and anyone who aids and abets him for any abortion taking place within the city limits. According to the ordinance, these fines cannot be imposed unless it is determined that (1) the individual seeking to impose the penalty upon the one who committed the unlawful act will not create an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions, (2) the person, corporation, or entity who committed the unlawful act of abortion lacks standing to assert the third-party rights of women seeking abortions in court, or (3) Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey are overturned.

The public enforcement section of the ordinance is the only part of the ordinance which is not immediate, but dependent upon other factors.

The private enforcement mechanism is immediately enforceable. Under “Private Enforcement” the Latexo ordinance states:

Any person, corporation, or entity that commits an unlawful act . . . other than the mother of the unborn child that has been aborted, shall be liable in tort to a surviving relative of the aborted unborn child, including the unborn child’s mother, father, grandparents, siblings or half-siblings. The person or entity that committed the unlawful act shall be liable to each surviving relative of the aborted unborn child for (a) Compensatory damages, including damages for emotional distress; (b) Punitive damages; and (c) Costs and attorneys’ fees.

Section F-4 of the Latexo ordinance reads:

Private enforcement . . . may be brought against any person, corporation, or entity that commits an unlawful act . . . upon the effective date of the ordinance, regardless of whether the Supreme Court has overruled Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), or Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), and regardless of whether the current jurisprudence of the Supreme Court permits states and municipalities to punish those who violate abortion prohibitions.

Councilman Harvey Bruner stands proud of the vote he cast.

“I’m glad to see this movement going on and I’m glad to be a part of this,” he said. “I want this to spread across the state!”

While city council was casting their vote in Latexo, the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee was hearing from pro-life citizens throughout the state who had traveled to the State Capitol in Austin to testify on several pro-life bills.

The bill which received the most attention was Senate Bill 8, authored by State Sen. Bryan Hughes, referred to as the Texas Heartbeat Act.

This act bans abortions after an unborn child’s heartbeat is detected, and enables anyone to sue an abortionist who commits an abortion after a heartbeat is detected. According to Texas Right To Life, if the Texas Heartbeat Act passes, the abortionist will be liable for “at least $10,000 in damages, the cost of attorney fees, and injunctive relief.”

In addition to this, anyone who aids or abets an abortion that violates the Texas Heartbeat Act is liable and could face civil action. The bill is also clear that it “does not create or recognize a right to abortion before a fetal heartbeat is detected” and that it does not “restrict a political subdivision from regulating or prohibiting abortion in a manner that is at least as stringent as the laws of this state.”

If passed, as is, these statements would give an even greater amount of support for cities in Texas that are outlawing abortion within their city limits.

It is also worth noting that both the Latexo ordinance and the proposed Texas Heartbeat Act both recognize that the State of Texas has never repealed its pre-Roe statutes.

The Latexo ordinance reads, “The State of Texas has never repealed its pre-Roe statutes that outlaw and criminalize abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger” and that “The law of Texas therefore continues to define abortion as a criminal offense except when necessary to save the life of the mother.”

The wording in the Texas Heartbeat Act is similar. “The legislature finds that the State of Texas never repealed, either expressly or by implication, the state statutes enacted before the ruling in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), that prohibit and criminalize abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger.”

Currently the Texas Heartbeat Bill, (Senate Bill 8) has a total of 17 authors in the Senate. The companion bill in the house (House Bill 1515), filed by State Rep. Shelby Slawson, has 4 joint authors and 51 co-authors. The Texas Heartbeat Bill also has gained the support of several organizations throughout the State of Texas including Texas Right To Life, Students For Life, Concerned Women For America, Right To Life of East Texas, and Texas Values.

On Tuesday, Hughes’ bill was successfully voted out of committee 7-2.

Meanwhile, at the local level, Pro-Life Waco has requested Right To Life of East Texas’ assistance in helping see some of the cities in McLennan County pass enforceable ordinances outlawing abortion within their city limits. The opposition in some cities, however, may be greater than in others. One city where opposition is expected is the City of West (Population 2,986). One of the West city council members has served as a director and spokesperson for Planned Parenthood in Waco for many years.

West is not the only city that could be impacted by someone connected to Planned Parenthood. According to the Texas Municipal League, Charles D. Olson is the city attorney for the cities of Leroy (Population 337) and Golinda (Population 560). Olson is married to Kris Kaiser Olson – the former Board Chair of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas and a well-known abortion leader throughout the state.

Because of this, many are expecting Olson to recommend against any city passing an ordinance outlawing abortion.

Despite the pushback, pro-life leaders like Director John Pisciotta with Pro-Life Waco appear intent on seeing cities in McLennan County become Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn.

Pisciotta, who has served for years as an economics professor at Baylor University in Waco, has high praise for the movement. “In my judgment Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn is the second most significant grassroots pro-life initiative of the 21st century,” he said. “I give the top spot to the 40 Days For Life prayer vigil. I am pleased to say that both of these initiatives started in Texas.”

More cities are expected to outlaw abortion within their city limits and become Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn throughout the Great State of Texas.

For more information about the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn initiative, visit www.sanctuarycitiesfortheunborn.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.