The City of Little River-Academy, located just 10 miles outside of Temple with a population of 2,048, is now a “sanctuary city for the unborn.”

On Thursday, the city council passed an “Ordinance Outlawing Abortion, Declaring Little River-Academy a Sanctuary City for the Unborn” in a unanimous 5-0 vote. Councilman David Newsome made the motion to pass the measure, which was seconded by Jack Bennett. Councilmembers Domingo Montalbo, Paul Williams, and Russ Nelson joined Newsome and Bennett in approving the measure, which had the support of Mayor Drew Lanham. Little River-Academy is the 50th city in the state of Texas and the 64th city in the entire United States to pass a “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinance.

Like the ordinance passed last month in Odessa, Texas, the Little River-Academy ordinance is purely enforced through private civil enforcement. The ordinance prohibits abortion and aiding or abetting an abortion within the city limits of Little River-Academy, prohibits abortion-inducing drugs within the city limits of Little River-Academy, prohibits abortions performed on Little River-Academy residents regardless of where those abortions take place, prohibits human trafficking at any stage within the city limits of Little River-Academy.

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 Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn ordinance is clear that the term does not include birth-control devices or oral contraceptives. The ordinance is also 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.”

Like the Texas Heartbeat Act, the Little River-Academy ordinance is enforced by a private enforcement mechanism. Unlike the Texas Heartbeat Act, though, the Little River-Academy ordinance outlaws abortion from the moment of conception, allowing private lawsuits to be filed against the abortionist and anyone who aids or abets an abortion performed on a child from the moment of conception.

The pre-Roe v. Wade Texas Criminal Abortion Statutes and the Human Life Protection Act, two state laws which do prohibit abortion at the point of conception, do not explicitly allow for private citizens to file lawsuits against the abortionist and anyone who aids or abets an abortion performed on a child from the moment of conception.

While it may seem to some that this provision allowing for private lawsuits is not needed, all anyone has to do is look back to 1968 when the pre-Roe v. Wade Texas Criminal Abortion Statutes were the law of Texas—criminalizing abortion from the moment of conception. Even though abortion was outlawed in Texas, Henderson County Health Officer Curtis Wayne Boyd committed 10,000 illegal abortions in Athens, Texas and no one stopped him. To this day Curtis Wayne Boyd, who opened up the first “legal” abortion facility in the State of Texas in Dallas, Texas, in 1973, has still not been held accountable for his pre-Roe abortions. The Little River-Academy ordinance is an attempt to make sure protections are in place so that what happened in Athens, Texas can never happen in Little River-Academy, Texas.

The passage of the measure makes Little River-Academy the first city in Bell County to pass an ordinance outlawing abortion. A majority of those who vote in Bell County are conservative Republican voters whose beliefs and values do not line up with the Biden administration’s desire for abortion access in every zip code.

In the 2020 presidential election in Bell County, the Republican candidate received 53.30 percent of the vote, while the Democrat candidate received 44.76 percent of the vote. It is also worth considering that one of the official planks of the Republican Party of Texas 2020 platform reads, “We support the right of Texas municipalities to protect mothers and preborn children in their communities by passing enforceable city ordinances that ban abortions and abortion industry businesses within their city limits.” Ninety-two percent of Republican Party of Texas delegates voted in favor of adding this plank to the Republican Party of Texas 2020 platform.

The question of where Bell County voters stand on abortion was directly addressed through propositions on the ballots in the 2018 and 2022 Republican Party primaries.

During the 2018 Republican Party primary, voters in Bell County had the opportunity to vote on Proposition 7, which read, “I believe abortion should be abolished in Texas.” Out of Bell County’s 17,753 votes, 12,525 (70.55percent ) voted in favor of outlawing abortion in Texas, and 5,228 (29.45 percent) voted against outlawing abortion in Texas.

During the 2022 Republican Party primary on March 1, voters in Bell County had the opportunity to vote on Proposition 5. This proposition gave voters the chance to voice whether they were in favor of or against the following statement: “Texas should enact a state constitutional amendment to defend the sanctity of innocent human life, created in the image of God, from fertilization until natural death.” Out of Bell County’s 20,774 votes, a total of 17,704 (85.22 percent) voted in favor of this proposition, and only 3,070 (14.78 percent) voted against this proposition.

Little River-Academy will probably not be the last city in Bell County to pass an ordinance outlawing abortion. Currently, there is much interest among the county’s residents, especially in the cities of Rogers (pop. 1,195) and Salado (pop. 2,391).

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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