Leona (population 175), a small city 175 miles northeast of Austin and known for having some of the biggest steaks in Texas, has become the 32nd city in Texas to pass an enforceable ordinance outlawing abortion. It’s also the 35th city in the nation to do so.

“As a member of the city council, it is a great privilege to be a part of such an important movement to save the lives of the unborn,” said Councilman and Vice Mayor Mark Gray. The vote was unanimous.

If Leona faces a lawsuit as a result of the adoption of their ordinance, former Texas Solicitor General Jonathan F. Mitchell has agreed to represent them at no cost to the city and taxpayers.

Councilman Gray would like to see every city in Leon County become a Sanctuary City for the Unborn. “First Centerville, now Leona, and prayerfully the other municipalities in our great Leon County,” he said. “I call on and ask the other councils in our community to take up this great need.”

While the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative started in Waskom, Texas, back in June 2019, the radical pro-abortion agenda of the Biden administration has revealed just how needed the initiative really is. On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade on January 22, 2021, President Biden and Vice President Harris stated their commitment to make sure everyone has abortion access in every zip code. Since then, a total of 18 cities, counting Leona, have passed ordinances outlawing abortion within their city limits.

Leona is the second city to pass such an ordinance in Leon County, which is an extremely conservative county. Other cities in Leon County include Buffalo (pop. 1,984), Jewett (pop. 1,250), Normangee (pop. 778), Oakwood (pop. 510), and Marquez (pop. 313). To varying degrees, Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn has seen a great amount of interest in these cities.

During Leon City County’s 2020 presidential election, 86.6 percent voted Republican. During the 2018 Republican Party primary, Leon County voters considered Proposition 7: “I believe abortion should be abolished in Texas,” and 74.47 percent voted in favor of this statement.

Councilman Gray is not the only one who wants to see abortion bans spread across East Texas. After hearing of the news of Leona voting to outlaw abortion, Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Tyler Diocese said, “It is my prayer that every community in East Texas and beyond will join this grassroots effort to protect the unborn. Let’s make the USA a pro-life nation, even if we have to do it one city at a time.”

As the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative continues to spread, communities across the United States are having discussions very similar to the one had in Leona.

The Leona Ordinance Outlawing Abortion 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 Leona, Texas.” It also states, “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion that occurs in the City of Leona, 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” or “remove a dead, unborn child whose death was caused by accidental miscarriage” or “remove an ectopic pregnancy.”

It also outlaws “abortion-inducing drugs,” which are defined as “mifepristone, misoprostol, and any drug or medication that is used to terminate the life of an unborn child.” The ordinance is clear that the use of the term “abortion-inducing drugs” does not include “birth-control devices or oral contraceptives, and it does not include Plan B, morning-after pills, or emergency contraception.” It also does not include “drugs or medications that are processed or distributed for a purpose that does not include the termination of a pregnancy.”

Although the Leona Ordinance Outlawing Abortion is immediately in effect, the ordinance does not go against Roe v. Wade (1973), Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), or any Supreme Court ruling, but works within those rulings and current federal and state laws to go as far as it legally can to prohibit and restrict abortion access under the confines of the undue burden standard, which was set by the United States Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

However, the fact that the ordinances were written to work within these rulings does not mean they haven’t faced any challenges. In February of 2020, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against seven Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn only to withdraw their lawsuit in May of the same year. Every one of the seven Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn were represented at no cost to the cities and the taxpayers by Jonathan F. Mitchell. Abortion continues to remain banned in every city that was sued.

In May 2021, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU sued the City of Lubbock for outlawing abortion within their city limits. Lubbock City Council hired their own attorneys to defend them. On June 1, Judge Hendrix dismissed the suit for a lack of standing.

Many cities will be considering outlawing abortion in the weeks to come as the initiative continues to make its impact in nationwide.

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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