As a result of a successful Citizen Initiative Petition filed by the citizens of Plainview (pop. 22,343), the Plainview City Council was forced to vote to either “adopt a proposed initiative ordinance without any change in substance” or “call an election on the proposed ordinance.” The Plainview City Council voted 5-1 on March 8 to “call an election on the proposed ordinance” for May 7, 2022—a date they lacked the authority to call an election for. Due to the illegitimate action being made on the Citizen Initiative Petition vote, the Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance is not yet on the ballot for the November election in Plainview, Texas.

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that Mayor Charles Starnes shared on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 9 that the Texas secretary of state’s office had informed him that the election would need to be on November 8 to conform with state law. While both the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and the Plainview Herald reported that voters would decide the issue in November, the vote to place the ordinance on the November ballot has not yet been finalized.

Mayor Charles Starnes and several members of the Plainview City Council argued that this was not a matter for the city council to decide, but a matter for the people to decide—especially since the leadership of Plainview had no control over the Supreme Court, the Texas Supreme Court, and the Texas Legislature. It is uncertain if Mayor Charles Starnes had heard about the Texas Heartbeat Act that was passed by the Texas Legislature and went into effect on September 1. So far, the Texas Heartbeat Act has survived before both the United States Supreme Court and the Texas Supreme Court; cities passing ordinances outlawing abortion within their jurisdiction is explicitly supported in the Texas Heartbeat Act.

Upon hearing the vote was not finalized, a state senator wrote a letter to the council, encouraging them to go ahead and pass the ordinance instead of sending the ordinance to the November ballot. State Sen. Charles Perry, who was a leading voice in the Lubbock effort and a champion of the Texas Heartbeat Act, wrote, “Had the City Council of Lubbock passed the ordinance when it was first presented to them in November 2020, no children would have been killed by abortion in Lubbock, Texas. Unfortunately, because of their inaction, Planned Parenthood started performing abortions in April 2021 before the ordinance was voted on in May and went into effect in June.” Sen. Perry continued, “I encourage you to follow in the footsteps of 43 cities across the United States which have passed ordinances outlawing abortion through their Mayor and City Council. Such an action is not an ‘authoritarian’ act, but an act which is truly in the best interest of the people of Plainview.”

Senator Perry closed his letter by saying, “While the ordinance being sent to the ballot in November would be better than nothing, the better choice would be for the conservative leadership of Plainview to stand – just as those of us in the Senate and House stood in the passage of the Texas Heartbeat Act. Please do not pass the buck and place your city at risk of having abortions allowed in your city for the next eight months.”

In regards to the Plainview council’s current plans for the Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance, the city’s agenda for the Tuesday, March 22 meeting reads, “Consider and take necessary action changing the date of the election for the citizens initiative ordinance outlawing abortion and declaring Plainview a sanctuary city for the unborn and placing it on the November 8, 2022, general election.”

While the City of Plainview may be of the belief that they can simply change the date of the election to fix their action scheduling an illegitimate election, many are questioning if the “changing of the date” from May (three months away) to November (eight months down the road) is too drastic of a change—especially since much of the discussion during the hearing on March 8 was over the May election date. This means the City of Plainview may face costly litigation if they decide to simply change the date instead of redoing their vote to either “adopt a proposed initiative ordinance without any change in substance” or “call an election on the proposed ordinance.” While confusion abounds due to several errors made by the mayor, city council, and city Attorney of Plainview, it is uncertain what exactly will happen during Tuesday’s meeting of the Plainview City Council.

Since the decision to send the ordinance to the November ballot is not final, the city council could choose to revisit passing the ordinance by a vote of their city council, as their city charter allows for and their state senator has suggested.

Pro-life leaders throughout Texas have reason to believe that the decision to send the ordinance to the ballot in May was not just an illegitimate vote, but was also rushed and may have been pre-determined. If it is determined that the Plainview City Council conspired to send the ordinance to the ballot before an official vote was cast, the City of Plainview could find themselves in costly litigation over violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act. West Texas for Life President Jim Baxa has filed an open records request with the City of Plainview, and other steps are being taken to investigate the matter.

Plainview is not the only city being encouraged by its state officials to pass an ordinance outlawing abortion. Sen. Charles Perry and State Rep. Dustin Burrows wrote a letter to the city council of Shallowater, encouraging them to outlaw abortion. The agenda item for their council meeting reads, “Consider and discuss ordinance 2022.03.22 declaring Shallowater a Sanctuary City for the Unborn and outlawing abortion within the city limits of Shallowater.” If Shallowater choses to pass the ordinance on Tuesday night, it will be the 41st city in the State of Texas to outlaw abortion and the 45th city in the United States.

Those who are interested in learning more about the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative can visit www.sanctuarycitiesfortheunborn.com.

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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