Since November 15th, 2019 residents throughout the City of Plainview (pop. 22,343) have expressed interest in seeing their city pass an enforceable ordinance outlawing abortion within their city limits. When the first member of their community showed interest in this effort only 6 cities had passed ordinances outlawing abortion. At the time no city in West Texas had passed the measure, but that changed as West Texas soon saw Westbrook (pop. 312), Colorado City (pop. 4,146), and Big Spring (pop. 26,862) all pass ordinances outlawing abortion within their city limits.

On May 1st, 2021 the City of Lubbock became the 26th city to pass an ordinance outlawing abortion within their city limits followed by cities like Abernathy (pop. 2,839) and Levelland (pop. 14,582). Plainview resident SuNell Pyeatt shared, “Now that they can’t set up in Lubbock or Levelland residents are concerned Planned Parenthood may try to relocate here.” Pyeatt continued, “Residents throughout the city don’t want to see an abortion facility come to Plainview. We are a college town and we want to keep abortions out of Plainview.”  Serious discussions started happening among community members about the best way to move forward in seeing their zip code protected from the expansion of the abortion industry. After much discussion over a course of 7 months it was decided that the best way forward for the City of Plainview is to go the route of passing the ordinance through a Citizen Initiative Petition as allowed by the Plainview City Charter.

A group gathers at College Heights Baptist Church on August 31st, 2021 to hear about the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative.

The Plainview City Charter, in Section 10.01 states, “The qualified voters of the city shall have the power to propose ordinances to the city council and, if the council fails to adopt an ordinance so proposed without any change in substance, to adopt or reject said ordinance at a city election.” Hearing about the initiative taking place in San Angelo, Abilene, and Lindale, and knowing that their city allowed them this option, Plainview residents sought assistance from Right To Life of East Texas and West Texas For Life to launch a successful Citizen Initiative Petition. The two groups assisted the residents of Plainview in their formation of what their city charter called a Petitioners’ Committee.

The Petitioners’ Committee is a group of ten qualified voters who are responsible for circulating and filing the Citizen Initiative Petition. The ten Plainview residents making up the committee include: Lydia Castillo, Maria Gonzales, Shayla Whalen, Pam Shannon, Robert Earhart, Elizabeth Earhart, Kimmett Bellows, Amber Logsdon Bellows, Robin McCormack, and Kerry McCormack.

The Petitioners’ Committee gathers at a local pregnancy resource center on Tuesday, January 11th, 2022 – the night before filing the necessary paperwork to begin the Citizen Initiative process in the City of Plainview.

After meeting the night before to review the paperwork one last time, the Petitioners’ Committee filed the necessary paperwork to begin the Citizen Initiative Petition Process on Wednesday, January 12th, 2022.

According to the charter, “Initiative and referendum petitions must be signed by currently qualified voters of the city equal in number to at least ten percent of the current registered voters.” The Hale County Board of Elections has reported a total of 10,724 qualified voters registered to vote in Plainview at the time of filing of the Petitioners’ Committee Affidavit. Based on this number, the Petitioners’ Committee will need to collect no less than 1,072 qualified signatures from the registered voters who live within the city limits.

The Petitioners’ Committee led by Amber Logsdon Bellows, intend to collect well over the required 1,072 signatures needed to force the Plainview City Council to either adopt the ordinance in the exact form proposed, or for the ordinance to be placed on the ballot for the next available election.

Pastor Taylor Lassiter, Senior Pastor of College Heights Baptist Church hosts a Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn interest meeting on August 31st, 2021.

Taylor Lassiter, Senior Pastor at College Heights Baptist Church, is one of the many Plainview residents planning on assisting the majority-female Petitioners’ Committee collecting signatures to make Plainview a Sanctuary City for the Unborn. “Abortion is evil and wrong,” shared Lassiter. “I would like to work with other Chtristian leaders and advocates for the unborn to prevent Planned Parenthood and others from establishing a foothold in our city.” Plainview resident Shiloh Posey stands in agreement with Lassiter in the effort. “All life begins at conception, and all people are made in the image of God. This makes life sacred,” shared Posey.

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

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.”

Besides outlawing abortion, the Plainview Ordinance immediately outlaws abortion-inducing drugs and declares them to be contraband. The Plainview Ordinance states “It shall be unlawful for any person to possess or distribute abortion-inducing drugs in the City of Plainview, 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.” The Ordinance is clear that the term “abortion-inducing drugs” does not include birth-control devices or oral contraceptives.

West Texas For Life President Jim Baxa oversees the notarization of the Petitioners’ Committee’s affidavit to start the Citizen Initiative petition process in the City of Plainview on Wednesday, January 12th, 2022.

The Plainview Ordinance Outlawing Abortion works in tandem with the Texas Heartbeat Act. While the Texas Heartbeat Act outlaws abortion from the point of a detectable heartbeat, the Plainview Ordinance outlaws abortion at the moment of conception – a move which is supported by the Texas Heartbeat Act.

In a May 2021 interview with KCBD Lubbock, Constitutional law professor Josh Blackman said the Governor’s signature on the Texas Heartbeat Act supports any city which wishes to outlaw abortion. Speaking of the Texas Heartbeat Act, Blackman shared, “It says that if a local municipality like Lubbock wants to go further and impose greater restrictions on abortion, they can, so they won’t be in conflict. These two laws will be in harmony.”

Since September 1st, 2021, when the Texas Heartbeat Act went into effect, five cities in Texas have passed ordinances outlawing abortion within their city limits including: Impact (pop. 20), Nazareth (pop. 311), Cisco (pop. 3,913), Anson (pop. 2,556), and Slaton (pop. 6,235).

Outside of Plainview, the only other cities whose residents are attempting to outlaw abortion through ballot initiative are San Angelo (population 101,612), Abilene (pop. 124,407), and Lindale (pop. 6,730). 

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.