When it comes to misinformation regarding the proposed Sanctuary City for the Unborn (SCFTU) Ordinance for the City of Amarillo, there is a lot to go around. The purpose of this commentary is not to address every piece of misinformation that has been published in every article and in every news outlet, but it is to address the major objections and questions presented by the Mayor and City Council of the City of Amarillo.
Specifically, this commentary will be responding to statements made by Mayor Cole Stanley that were published on the Amarillo City Council Forum Message Board on December 29 and in the Amarillo Globe-News on January 5, statements made by Councilman Tom Scherlen that were stated on CNN News Central on December 19 and in the Amarillo Globe-News on January 10, statements made by Mayor Stanley and Councilman Scherlen that were published in the Texas Tribune on January 18, and statements made by Councilman Les Simpson that were published in the Amarillo Globe-News on January 21. In addition to responding to these statements, this commentary will also be responding to questions I received via email from Councilman Simpson on January 23. Councilman Don Tipps and Councilman Josh Craft have not made any statements in opposition that have been viewed as worth responding to at this time.
Background on the Citizen Initiative in Support of the Amarillo SCFTU Ordinance
On December 29, 2023, I wrote a commentary for Texas Scorecard detailing how eleven Amarillo residents filed the necessary paperwork at Amarillo City Hall to start collecting signatures for a citizen initiative petition in support of a Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance for the city of Amarillo. Before diving into statements made by the Mayor and City Council of Amarillo, it would be good to quote what that commentary said the proposed Amarillo SCFTU Ordinance would do:
“The proposed ordinance does the following:
- Prohibits elective abortions and the aiding or abetting of elective abortions within city limits – extending the private enforcement mechanism found in the Texas Heartbeat Act from the point of detectable heartbeat to the point of conception.
- Prohibits elective abortions or the aiding or abetting of elective abortions on residents who live within the city limits – regardless of the location of the abortion.
- Prohibits the manufacturing, possession, or distribution of abortion-inducing drugs within the city limits.
- Prohibits the abortion trafficking of an unborn child and the aiding or abetting of the abortion trafficking of an unborn child within the city limits – making it illegal for abortion traffickers to use any roads or runways within the city limits.
- Prohibits the transport of the remains of unborn children who have been killed by an elective abortion from any abortion provider into the city limits, prohibiting also the disposal of such remains within the city limits.
- Prohibits organizations seeking to profit off of the murder of innocent unborn children from operating or doing business within the city limits.
These six provisions all do something that current law in Texas does not, and would make Amarillo one of the safest cities in Texas for pregnant mothers and their unborn children.”
Responding to Mayor Cole Stanley’s Statements in the Amarillo City Council Forum Message Board, the Amarillo Globe-News, and The Texas Tribune
In the Amarillo Globe-News article from January 5, Mayor Stanley stated his belief that the city council was attempting to put forth a measure that protected life before the Amarillo SCFTU Initiating Committee brought forward their own ordinance. Mayor Stanley stated, “Where the big rift in this conversation is what the state of Texas has already done that makes these things unlawful. When you look at Health and Safety Code 171, it already states aiding and abetting and provides for a civil right of action. The real question I have for Jonathan Mitchell, who I am waiting to hear more from, is what this ordinance would do, if anything, that is not already done in state law.”
This statement mimicked prior statements from Mayor Stanley that were expressed in the Amarillo City Council Forum Message Board on December 29, 2023. After receiving the paperwork from the Citizen Initiative Petition, Mayor Stanley asked if their time would be better spent “discussing the items currently in state law that already give ‘any person’ the right of civil action against ‘anyone that aids or abets’ (which includes providing the abortion inducing drugs or transporting them across state lines to a abortion provider).”
Mayor Stanley then referenced §171.208(2) of the Texas Government Code and asked, “Any other council members that were told that the MLD [Mark Lee Dickson] ordinance was needed in order to have the private right of action? I only learned that the public already has the right to sue under state law this week. MLD specifically told me in our last conversation that ‘any person’ could not sue ‘anyone who aids or abets someone in carrying out an abortion.’ Obviously this is not in line with state law.” Mayor Stanley concluded, “Please let me know if I am mistaken, but this ordinance is a reprint of what the state has already accomplished except it’s brought to the municipal level and does not have the authorities needed for it to be legally enforced. I am concerned that most of our citizens do not understand that this draft does not do what it has been represented to do. As well as the fact that most of us did not know that the ability to take a ‘private right of action’ has already been awarded by SB8, 170A, 171.”
On January 5, I posted a response on social media written by Attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell and myself which addressed the following question: “Do the laws of the State of Texas already give ‘any person’ the right of civil action against ‘anyone that aids or abets’ an abortion by providing abortion-inducing drugs or by transporting them across state lines to an abortion provider?” Our response was, as follows:
In an Amarillo City Council Forum Message Board, Mayor Cole Stanley wrongly implied that the laws of the State of Texas already give “any person” the right to bring a civil action against “anyone who aids or abets” an abortion by providing abortion-inducing drugs or by transporting them across state lines to an abortion provider.
That is untrue. The Texas Heartbeat Act only allows civil actions to be brought in response to post-heartbeat abortions performed by Texas-licensed physicians. Most out-of-state abortionists are not licensed to practice medicine in Texas.
In addition, the Texas Heartbeat Act applies only to abortions performed in Texas, not abortions performed in other states. There is currently no way under state law for anyone to sue someone who aids or abets an out-of-state abortion unless: (1) The abortion was performed by a Texas-licensed physician; (2) The abortion occurred after a fetal heartbeat was detectable; AND (3) The abortion was a drug-induced abortion in which one or both of the abortion-inducing drugs was swallowed or ingested in Texas.
In addressing this question on my social media, we thought surely this would settle the issue. We then read statements published by Mayor Stanley in the Texas Tribune on January 18. According to the Texas Tribune, “Stanley referenced one social media post — where Dickson said Stanley ‘wrongly implied’ what state law does — and said Dickson ‘conveniently’ left out other laws from the health and safety codes.”
Stanley told the news outlet, “Though that may be a true, factual statement, SB 8 isn’t the only law on the books.” He went on to say, “So you have to be very specific when you’re questioning him … If you have a good ordinance that’s healthy and the right thing to do for the community, then answer all the questions. Not just the ones that you can make appear certain.”
In regards to Mayor Stanley’s reference to Texas Health and Safety Code §171.208, the statute reads, “Any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity in this state, may bring a civil action against any person who: (1) performs or induces an abortion in violation of this subchapter; (2) knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise, if the abortion is performed or induced in violation of this subchapter, regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the abortion would be performed or induced in violation of this subchapter; or (3) intends to engage in the conduct described by Subdivision (1) or (2).”
Texas Health and Safety Code §171.208 is a part of the bill known as Senate Bill 8 that was passed during the 87th Legislative Session of the Texas Legislature in 2021. Senate Bill 8, also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, amended: (1) Chapter 171 of the Texas Health and Safety Code by adding Subchapter H which spans §§171.201 – 171.211, (2) Chapter 30 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code by adding §30.022, (3) Subchapter C, Chapter 311 of the Texas Government Code by adding §311.036, (4) §171.005 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, (5) Subchapter A, Chapter 171 of the Texas Health and Safety Code by adding §171.008, (6) §171.012(a) of the Texas Health and Safety Code, and (7) §245.011(c) of the Texas Health and Safety Code.
The title of Subchapter H, which §171.208 falls under, is titled “Detection of Fetal Heartbeat.” Mayor Stanley wrongly assumed §171.208 applies to all abortions both inside and outside the State of Texas when it only applies to abortions performed on unborn children with a detectable heartbeat by a physician licensed within the State of Texas.
Notice the phrase, “in violation of this subchapter” found in §171.208. The text reads, “Any person … may bring a civil action against any person who … performs or induces an abortion in violation of this subchapter … knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise, if the abortion is performed or induced in violation of this subchapter, regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the abortion would be performed or induced in violation of this subchapter.” That subchapter mentioned is Subchapter, titled “Detection of Fetal Heartbeat.
Having addressed SB 8, which is §§171.201 – 171.211, we may now address 170A.
Texas Health and Safety Code §170A is a part of the bill known as House Bill 1280, which was passed during the 87th Legislative Session of the Texas Legislature in 2021. HB 1280, also known as the Human Life Protection Act of 2021, amended: Subtitle H of Title 2 of the Health Safety Code by adding Chapter 170A, which spans §§170A.001 – 170A.007. The Human Life Protection Act only applies to the abortionist and not anyone who is found aiding or abetting an abortion. The law does not award citizens the ability to bring a “private right of action” against the abortionist or anyone who is found aiding or abetting the abortionist.
The law is also clear to state that it does not “abolish or impair any remedy for the conduct that is available in a civil suit.” §170A.006 states, “The fact that conduct is subject to a civil or criminal penalty under this chapter does not abolish or impair any remedy for the conduct that is available in a civil suit.”
§170A.006 does not mean that a statewide remedy has already been created that would allow a private citizen to file a lawsuit against an abortionist for performing an abortion on an unborn child. Remedies are not automatically available, they have to be created. A remedy was created in the Texas Heartbeat Act allowing lawsuits to be filed by private citizens against abortionists and those who were aiding or abetting any abortion performed upon an unborn child with a detectable heartbeat. A remedy was also created in SCFTU ordinances for abortions performed on unborn children from the point of conception. This remedy is currently available at the local level in 50 cities and 7 counties throughout the State of Texas.
On January 8, I posted a response on social media written by Attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell and myself which addressed the following question: “What does the proposed Amarillo Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance do that our current state law does not already do?” Our response was as follows:
A lot. Current state law does nothing to punish individuals who traffic pregnant women across state lines for the purpose of abortion. It only outlaws and criminalizes abortions that occur within Texas. State law has no provisions protecting the unborn residents of our state who are taken to other states and murdered by out-of-state abortion providers. Current state law also has no provisions enforcing the federal Comstock Act’s prohibitions and the shipment and receipt of abortion-related paraphernalia.
Mayor Stanley, who was endorsed for his mayoral race by the Republican Party of Texas, has expressed skepticism regarding the private enforcement mechanism used in the proposed ordinance—both in the news and in private discussions.
Responding to Councilman Tom Scherlen’s Statements on CNN News Central and the Amarillo City Council Forum Message Board and in the Amarillo Globe-News and The Texas Tribune
The Texas Tribune has described Councilman Scherlen as “one of the most outspoken critics of the ordinance” who is “against abortion, but has been adamantly opposed to the enforcement mechanism of the ordinance, which he previously compared to how Nazis had enforced their laws in World War II.” While some brushed off Councilman Scherlen’s comments from the October 24, 2023, council meeting, they have been repeated by Scherlen time and time again.
On December 19, 2023, when asked about the private enforcement mechanism found in the Amarillo ordinance, Councilman Scherlen told Brianna Keilar with CNN News Central that he saw the private enforcement mechanism as “neighbor against neighbor” and that he was very much against it. Councilman Scherlen said, “The last time we saw something like this was during World War II when Hitler was asking neighbors to turn neighbors in during the war, especially towards the Jews. And I just don’t propose liking to see a neighbor turn in a neighbor, potentially in America.”
In addition to this, on the Amarillo City Council Forum Message Board on December 29, 2023, Councilman Scherlen called the pre-initiative version of the ordinance “nothing but draconian law!”
In making these statements, Councilman Scherlen, who was also endorsed for his city council seat by the Republican Party of Texas, appears to be in direct conflict with the Republican Party of Texas 2022 Party Platform. Plank #217 of the party platform states, “Until the abolition of abortion is achieved, we support laws that restrict and regulate abortion, including but not limited to … Extend the private cause of action used in the Texas Heartbeat Act to all pro-life laws and policies in Texas.”
When it comes to the issue of abortion, the Republican Party of Texas Party Platform could not be clearer—abortion is a violation of the United States Constitution. Entitled “Equal Protection for the Preborn,” Plank #36 states, “We urge lawmakers to enact legislation to abolish abortion by immediately securing the right to life and equal protection of the laws to all preborn children from the moment of fertilization, because abortion violates the US Constitution by denying such persons the equal protection of the law.” Furthermore, in Plank #218 entitled “Abolish Abortion,” we read, “Since life begins at fertilization, we urge the Texas Legislature to abolish abortion through enacting legislation that would immediately secure the rights to life and would nullify any and all federal statutes, regulations, orders, and court rulings that would deny these rights.”
I would like to believe that Councilman Scherlen is in full support of these party planks. If this is true, and he is in full support of these party planks, then there must be a great disconnect between what he says he believes and the actions he is willing to take on the basis of those beliefs. If Councilman Scherlen truly believes that “abortion violates the US Constitution by denying such persons the equal protection of the law” then he should have no problem prohibiting the abortion trafficking of an unborn child on the roads of Amarillo. However, based upon his prior statements, I am not convinced that he does believe these things. As he told CNN, “We live in a free society and according to the Constitution, I believe, that you are entitled the right to travel.” While the proposed Amarillo Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance does not violate the right to travel, the fact that some are suggesting that it does begs the question, “Do these people believe the right to travel supersedes the Right to Life?”
Truth be told, the abortion trafficking provision of the Amarillo SCFTU Ordinance does not violate the right to travel. What the ordinance does do, however, is as much as we can possibly do to protect life on this side of the Texas-New Mexico border. Nothing in this ordinance states that women cannot travel outside the State of Texas. What this ordinance does say, however, is that it is against the law to assist with trafficking a pregnant mother across state lines for the purpose of aborting her unborn child. When commenting on the abortion trafficking ordinance passed in Cochran County, Texas, KOAT Albuquerque legal expert John Day said, “The issue is if you’re in the state of Texas, you’re subject to Texas laws. And there’s nothing that New Mexico could do to provide immunity for anyone who’s caught up in this issue in Texas.”
The abortion trafficking provision of the Amarillo Ordinance tracks the current wording of the federal Mann Act of 1910 almost verbatim, with the exception that we have a broader definition of the prohibited purposes. Our prohibited purposes include abortion trafficking. Abortion trafficking would have fallen within the erstwhile “immoral purpose” definition of the Mann Act. Since all previous iterations of the Mann Act were upheld as constitutional, the abortion trafficking provision should survive any court challenge regarding its constitutionality.
In the Amarillo Globe-News article from January 10, Councilman Scherlen shared, “I asked Mark Lee Dickson (proponent of the abortion travel ban) straight out what the difference between your law and state law. Well, he never could answer. The state law in Texas is a really tough law, and anything we add to that, I think, is total government overreach. I believe in small government.”
As soon as I read the quote, I sent a text message to Amarillo resident Jana May, who was there with me at the meeting that took place the week prior with Councilman Scherlen. We decided that it would be best to respond to the incident on social media. The response posted on January 10 was, in part, as follows:
Councilman Scherlen asked me this question at Roaster’s Coffee, in the presence of Jana May – who is the head of the initiating committee for the Amarillo Initiative. The following is Jana May’s response to Councilman Scherlen’s statement: “Tom Scherlen’s statement about Mark Lee not answering his question on the abortion trafficking ban is absolutely not true! I was there!!! Mark Lee stated that no state law prohibits abortion trafficking through Amarillo and that no state law prohibits abortions performed on residents of Amarillo, regardless of the location of their abortion.”
According to Amarillo Globe-News, “Scherlen feels that a city ordinance does nothing more than the state does to protect life” and said, “’There is no way I would support the ordinance for the city as presented in the petition or the 18 pages that were submitted to the council,’ Scherlen said. ‘That ordinance they are trying to burden on the city is too cumbersome and restrictive. It goes against the Constitution of the United States.'” For Jana May and myself, reading this statement came as a bit of a shock. As we said in the second part of our January 10 response:
This is actually the exact opposite of what Councilman Scherlen told us at Roaster’s Coffee. The following is Jana May’s response to this statement from Councilman Scherlen: “Tom Scherlen also told us that if we got beyond the necessary number of signatures, he would see that as a mandate to go ahead and pass the ordinance when the vote comes before the city council!”
Councilman Scherlen went on to say to the Amarillo Globe-News, “To me, people are not being educated on what the ordinance within the petition says. Many may sign, but I do not believe that all who sign the petition will vote for this action. Of course, if you present this as being against abortion, most people in this area are against abortion, but that is not all this ordinance is about.” The councilman made a similar statement to the Texas Tribune on January 18, stating that he believes state law is effective as is, sharing: “I believe our citizens are being led down a path of untruths about what state law actually does.”
While Councilman Scherlen may believe people are not being educated on what the ordinance within the petition says, resources released by churches and reports in the media appear to show citizens being well informed regarding the proposed ordinance.
On December 29, initiating committee member and immediate past president of the High Plains Republican Women, Jana May stated, “We are called to protect and cherish the preborn who cannot protect themselves. It’s that simple! We must do our part to protect unborn children from abortion and abortion trafficking throughout our city.”
Jacob Meyer, another initiating committee member and president of the Amarillo Area Young Republicans shared, “One of the planks of the Republican Party of Texas Party Platform is expanding the private enforcement mechanism found in the Texas Heartbeat Act to all pro-life laws across the State of Texas. This ordinance is a direct fulfillment of that party platform here in the City of Amarillo.” Meyer continued, “When writing the Declaration of Independence, our founding fathers listed our inalienable rights and put the ‘Right to Life’ first for a reason. This ordinance recognizes the ‘Right to Life’ and, once it passes, will frustrate the efforts of anyone attempting to traffic unborn children across state lines. This ordinance has been tried, tested, and proven in other localities and will cover the gaps currently open in the pre-Roe v. Wade Statutes, the Texas Heartbeat Act, and the Human Life Protection Act.”
Later, on January 4, Meyer shared with The Texan, “It’s obvious that most on the city council were not interested in considering the private enforcement mechanism, which is not negotiable to the pro-life community here.” Meyer continued, “The private enforcement mechanism is what got Planned Parenthood to stop performing abortions in the City of Lubbock in June of 2021, so it cannot be overstated how effective it is.”
On January 6, Pastor Jimmy Witcher of Trinity Fellowship Church in Amarillo released an updated Thought Piece regarding the importance of the passage of a Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinance. Pastor Witcher wrote, “A common question asked is, ‘With the Supreme Court rulings of Roe v. Wade (1973) and Casey (1992) being overturned and with the Texas ‘Heartbeat Law’ being in effect, why does the city of Amarillo need to pass these ordinances?” Witcher, pastoring one of Amarillo’s largest churches, answered the question, stating, “First, while Texas has laws intended to prevent citizens from getting abortion-inducing medications online, they are not stopping the inflow of these drugs. Out-of-state companies are actively soliciting and shipping abortion-inducing drugs into Texas.” Two examples Pastor Witcher gave of companies targeting Texans were Plan C Pills and Aid Access.
Pastor Witcher continued, “Second, since the overturning of Roe, well-funded, pro-choice organizations and liberal corporations are actively targeting citizens in states like Texas, providing transportation services, abortion “insurance,” and in some cases, back-pay for time lost at work for individuals seeking an abortion out-of-state.”
In conclusion to the aforementioned question, Pastor Witcher stated, “Finally, in a letter dated August 21, 2023, twenty Texas lawmakers signed an open letter to Texas city councils, county commissions, and local officials encouraging them to adopt ‘ordinances outlawing abortion and abortion trafficking and declaring their cities and counties Sanctuaries for the Unborn.’ One of the signers of this letter was Texas Senator Bryan Hughes, author of the Texas Heartbeat Law. Section 311.036(b) of the law says, ‘A [Texas state] statute may not be construed to restrict a political subdivision from regulating or prohibiting abortion in a manner that is at least as stringent as the laws of this state…’ In other words, the Texas Heartbeat Law specifically provides for cities and counties to further restrict abortion, and the author of the law has signed a letter encouraging them to do so.”
In his Thought Piece, Pastor Witcher also took time to emphasize just what was at stake in this discussion:
Life. The life of unborn children is at stake. The pro-choice proponents are pushing strongly for the city council to shelve these conversations, citing the overturning of Roe and the current Texas laws prohibiting abortion. They are pushing for this, knowing that abortion-inducing drugs are easily making their way into Amarillo and that organizations are actively transporting women out of the area for elective abortions. As a Christian and as the Ekklesia, I believe it is important we stand for those who do not have the power to stand for themselves.
Our Founding Fathers, in the building of our great republic, made this declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
On January 12, initiating committee member John Barrett shared with Pro-Life Prime Time News about the signatures being collected in Amarillo to make his city a Sanctuary City for the Unborn. “The ordinance addresses the abortion trafficking issue,” Barrett said, “where we have women, young women, who are being transported all over Texas, across the state line to New Mexico to get an abortion.” Barrett criticized Councilman Scherlen’s claim that the ordinance was redundant, stating “It’s not (redundant). The ordinance plugs the loopholes in the system. And, in fact, our State Legislature encouraged cities and counties across Texas to do what we are doing right here.”
On January 22, the Amarillo Globe-News reported on a pro-life mass held at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Amarillo in place of the annual March for Life and the opportunity churchgoers had to sign the Sanctuary City for the Unborn petition following the service. James Schulte, Family Life Director for the Diocese of Amarillo, shared with the news outlet that the annual March for Life has continued past the overturning of Roe v. Wade because “abortion is available in most of our country” and “We still have a lot of work to do to save lives.” When speaking of the ordinance, Schulte shared, “This ordinance will fill in some holes since the Texas law does not affect those that leave the state for an abortion.” Schulte continued, “This ordinance will allow citizens to civically sue those that aid and abet in the transport for an abortion. This will allow suits to be filed against people who take a woman across the border for an abortion. There will not be charges against the pregnant women that get the abortion.” According to Schulte, the heart of the issue was protecting the innocent life of the unborn child, stating, “Our purpose is still to protect the baby, and if we can make one person decide not to take a woman to New Mexico for an abortion, that would be our intent.”
Councilman Scherlen may truly believe “people are not being educated on what the ordinance within the petition says,” and he may truly believe that not “all who sign the petition will vote for this action.” However, it is my belief that the residents of Amarillo are far more educated than the councilman may think they are. My hope is that Councilman Scherlen would truly listen to the community who voted him into office, believing that he represented their pro-life beliefs and values. At the end of the day, this is what conservative voters—the majority of voters in Amarillo—should expect of those whom they have elected into office.
Councilman Scherlen told the Amarillo Globe-News, ”Under no circumstances … will the city council go around the community and pass an ordinance without due diligence like the Lubbock County representative did.” This statement prompted a scathing response to the Amarillo City Council from Lubbock County Commissioner Jason Corley, explaining the due diligence that was taken in the passage of their ordinance and encouraged Councilman Scherlen to do his due diligence.
Part of Councilman Scherlen doing his due diligence should include the realization that an overwhelming majority of those who vote in Randall and Potter Counties are conservative Republican voters who want to see abortion abolished completely. In Randall County, during the 2020 Presidential Election, 78.54 percent (50,796) voted Republican, 19.79 percent (12,802) voted Democrat, and 1.66 percent (1,076) voted for other candidates. In Potter County, during the 2020 Presidential Election, 68.45 percent (22,820) voted Republican, 29.76 percent (9,921) voted Democrat, and 1.79 percent (596) voted for other candidates.
During the 2018 Republican Party Primary, voters had the opportunity to vote on Proposition #7. This proposition gave voters the opportunity to vote FOR or AGAINST the following statement, “I believe abortion should be abolished in the State of Texas.” In Randall County, out of 16,363 votes, a total of 12,154 (74.28 percent) voted in favor of the statement and 4,209 (25.72 percent) voted against the statement. In Potter County, out of 7,693 votes, a total of 5,436 (70.66 percent) voted in favor of the statement and 2,257 (29.34 percent) voted against the statement. This means a majority of the majority of those who vote in Randall and Potter Counties are in favor of abortion being abolished in the State of Texas.
In addition to this, one of the official planks of the Republican Party of Texas 2020 Platform read, “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.” Over 92 percent of Republican Party of Texas delegates voted in favor of this plank being added to the Republican Party of Texas 2020 Party Platform.
Most recently, during the 2022 Republican Party Primary on March 1, voters in Randall and Potter Counties had the opportunity to vote on Proposition #5. This proposition gave voters the chance to voice their opinion if they were FOR 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.” In Randall County, out of 17,540 votes, a total of 15,459 (88.14 percent) voted in favor of the proposition and 2,081 (11.86 percent) voted against the proposition. In Potter County, out of 7,619 votes, a total of 6,582 (86.39 percent) voted in favor of the proposition and 1,037 (13.61 percent) voted against the proposition.
The Republican voters of Amarillo are, undeniably, pro-life and in favor of ending abortion completely. There is no reason for any Republican lawmaker to stand in opposition to any effort that seeks to end the murder of unborn children made in the image of God.
Responding to Councilman Les Simpson’s Statements on the Amarillo City Council Forum Message Board and in the Amarillo Globe-News and the Texas Tribune
On January 21, the Amarillo Globe-News wrote, “Simpson said that the proposed ordinance that has been looked at by the city council – and on a petition that has been gathering signatures throughout the city has been posed as closing loopholes in the state’s already strict abortion law.” While this statement is accurate, what is inaccurate is the belief that the State of Texas is only operating under one prohibition on abortion. The fact that this error is being made is revealed in the very next sentence. The Amarillo Globe-News, speaking of the Texas Heartbeat Act, writes, “The state’s law was devised by former Texas Solicitor General Johnathan Mitchell, which includes a legal provision to allow private citizens to sue an abortion provider or anyone who aids and abets in the procurement of an abortion.” Not only did the Amarillo Globe-News misspell Jonathan Mitchell’s name, but they also failed to point out that the Texas Heartbeat Act, which they were speaking of, only applies to abortions performed on an unborn child with a detectable heartbeat.
Councilman Simpson told the Amarillo Globe-News, “I do not know why, if there are loopholes in the legislation, it was not addressed in the first place with the same person writing the law as the ordinances.” Part of the answer to Councilman Simpson’s question is the fact that the Texas Heartbeat Act was written during the Roe regime. At the time, Senator Bryan Hughes and other legislators felt confident that they could pass a heartbeat bill. While the Texas Heartbeat Act laid the groundwork for the end of abortion in Texas, the law itself did not prohibit abortions from the moment of conception but only prohibited abortions from being performed on unborn children with detectable heartbeats within the State of Texas. Of course, because we wanted to go further in paving the way for an abortion-free Texas in an abortion-free America, Section 5 of the Texas Heartbeat Act amended the Texas Code Construction Act to include the following provision: “A statute may not be construed to restrict a political subdivision from regulating or prohibiting abortion in a manner that is at least as stringent as the laws of this state unless the statute explicitly states that political subdivisions are prohibited from regulating or prohibiting abortion in the manner described by the statute.” At the time of the passage of the Texas Heartbeat Act, the strictest laws on abortion were the pre-Roe v. Wade statutes that had never been repealed in the State of Texas and that were still the law of the land—even if those state statutes were not being enforced due to Roe v. Wade.
The passage of this provision in the Texas Heartbeat Act, which explicitly allows cities and counties the ability to restrict abortion in ways that go beyond the current laws of the State of Texas, is one reason why provisions started being passed in cities like Cisco, Slaton, Athens, Abilene, San Angelo, and Plainview that went beyond what we had previously seen with Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinances. Among other things, these ordinances began to prohibit abortions performed on residents of their communities and prohibited the abortion trafficking of their residents to other states for the purpose of an elective abortion. Odessa passed their ordinance with the same major provisions as the previous cities, but with a broader provision that prohibited the abortion trafficking of anyone through their community and not just residents. Odessa was followed by other political subdivisions across Texas in passing these measures.
Councilman Simpson asked, “Wouldn’t it be (better) to focus on closing these loopholes in Austin rather than creating a patchwork of laws in cities and counties across the state?” Sometimes it can be extremely difficult to get legislators all on the same page. It has been said before by legislators, journalists, and historians that the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative paved the way for the Texas Heartbeat Act and the end of abortion in Texas. In the same way, the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative is currently paving the way for future state legislation that will help in the overall effort to end abortion in America. The evils of our society are not going to end merely by actions of our state legislators in Austin, Texas, or by actions by our state congressmen in Washington, D.C. The evils of our society are only going to meet their death when we fight together at every level of government, as everyone does their part to end the intentional killing of unborn children in America.
In his examination of state legislation, Councilman Simpson was correct to notice that it is “against state law to aid and abet someone in getting an abortion or have a third party pay for someone else to have an abortion” but that only applies if the abortion takes place within the State of Texas. This is why the ordinance is so crucial, because right now pregnant mothers are being taken to states like New Mexico and Colorado and Kansas—for the purpose of murdering an unborn child. The extermination facilities in these states are working with individuals and organizations throughout the State of Texas to facilitate the passage of pregnant mothers to these extermination facilities for the purpose of ending unborn human lives and they are using the roads and runways of Amarillo to accomplish such an act.
Councilman Simpson was also right to say, “It is against the law to improperly dispose of fetal remains,” but there are loopholes. While state law addresses the disposal of remains of unborn children from health care facilities in §697.004 of the Health and Safety Code, state law does not address: (1) the transportation of the remains of unborn children who have been killed by an elective abortion from an abortion provider in another state, and (2) the disposal of the remains of an unborn child killed by an elective abortion outside the State of Texas at a waste management facility inside the State of Texas. In addition to this, no state law has created a private right of action allowing citizens to bring a lawsuit against those who are transporting or disposing of the remains of unborn children who have been killed by an elective abortion in other states, into the State of Texas. The proposed Amarillo SCFTU Ordinance would close these loopholes by prohibiting the transport of the remains of unborn children who have been killed by an elective abortion from any abortion provider into the city limits, prohibiting also the disposal of such remains within the city limits.
Councilman Simpson said it was also already against the law to “possess or distribute abortion-inducing drugs.” During the 87th Legislative Session, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 4. SB 4 is an act “relating to abortion complication, reporting and the regulation of drug-induced abortion procedures, providers, and facilities; creating a criminal offense.” This law amended various sections of Chapter 171 of the Texas Health and Safety Code. One section amended by SB 4 is §171.063, which reads, “A person may not knowingly provide an abortion-inducing drug to a pregnant woman for the purpose of inducing an abortion in the pregnant woman or enabling another person to induce an abortion in the pregnant woman unless: (1) the person who provides the abortion-inducing drug is a physician; and (2) the provision of the abortion-inducing drug satisfies the protocol authorized by this subchapter.” In addition to this, Subsection (b-1) is added to read, “A manufacturer, supplier, physician, or any other person may not provide to a patient any abortion-inducing drug by courier, delivery, or mail service.” In this section, “‘Provide’ means, as used with regard to abortion-inducing drugs, any act of giving, selling, dispensing, administering, transferring possession, or otherwise providing or prescribing an abortion-inducing drug.”
In our Post-Dobbs Texas world, some of these provisions are overshadowed by laws with stronger provisions, but loopholes still exist which are in need of being closed. When SB 4 speaks of abortion-inducing drugs, the prohibition is on giving abortion-inducing drugs to a “pregnant woman” or to a “patient.” This means a non-pregnant woman or a non-patient could pass through Amarillo with abortion-inducing drugs unscathed, as long as they did not “give, sell, dispense, administer, transfer possession, provide or prescribe” an abortion-inducing drug to a pregnant woman or a patient. Likewise, under SB 4, a manufacturer of abortion-inducing drugs could still manufacture abortion-inducing drugs unscathed, as long as they did not provide to a “patient any abortion-inducing drug by courier, delivery, or mail service.” A patient is commonly defined in Texas law as “a person who consults or is seen by a physician for medical care.”
There are currently no state laws prohibiting the manufacturing of abortion-inducing drugs within the State of Texas, the possession of abortion inducing-drugs within the State of Texas, the distribution of abortion-inducing drugs within the State of Texas to non-pregnant women and non-patients in Texas, the mailing of abortion-inducing drugs to non-pregnant women and non-patients in Texas, the transporting of abortion-inducing drugs in Texas, the delivery of abortion-inducing drugs to non-pregnant women and non-patients in Texas, or the provision of abortion-inducing drugs in any manner to or from any non-pregnant woman or non-patient or location in Texas. In addition to there being no state law addressing these specific issues, there are also no state laws creating private rights of action addressing these specific issues. The proposed Amarillo SCFTU Ordinance seeks to close these loopholes by prohibiting the manufacturing, possession, and distribution of abortion-inducing drugs within the city limits of Amarillo and the mailing, transporting, delivery, or provision of abortion-inducing drugs in any manner to or from any person or location in the city limits of Amarillo.
One question asked by Councilman Simpson was, “why the city of Amarillo is being held at the point of a bayonet to approve these ordinances as written with no opportunity for discussion or negotiation?” The first proposed SCFTU ordinance that was drafted for the City of Amarillo was drafted on December 13, 2021, and first given to Jana May three days later. It was this version of the ordinance that was the basis of our first discussions with Amarillo city leadership. The 18-page ordinance had four major provisions: (1) Abortion Prohibited, (2) Abortion Coverage Prohibited in Employer-Provided Health Insurance or Benefits, (3) Abortions Performed Outside Amarillo, Texas, and (4) Abortions Performed in Violation of Texas Law. There has already been much “discussion and negotiation” behind the scenes throughout multiple administrations. It should speak volumes that the very first ordinance given to the City of Amarillo, and every ordinance drafted for the City of Amarillo since then, prohibited the abortion trafficking of a resident of Amarillo.
Several of Councilman Simpson’s questions had to deal with myself. Councilman Simpson asked, “Why is someone coming clear across the state of Texas to spend so much time in our community to make this change?” Simpson continued, “I do not question the motives of our citizens; I understand that they are pro-life. Is there something else at play here other than just passing a sanctuary city ordinance or doing more for pro-life? I am pro-life, and we live in a state that has some of the most pro-life state laws.” The answer is simple, I am here because I was asked to come here by Jana May and residents throughout the City of Amarillo. They believe, with all of their heart, that there is more work to be done to end abortion. I am here in Amarillo because I was asked to supply multiple ordinances to Amarillo’s city leadership for the council’s consideration. It would have been nice to explain those ordinances, but I was never afforded that opportunity before the city council. Instead, the fact that I supplied several ordinances was ignored and I was openly attacked for it. This has not been my experience with other political subdivisions throughout the state of Texas – especially not with elected officials who claim to be pro-life. These actions by the Amarillo City Council have caused me to have many questions of my own.
Another question Councilman Simpson had was “why, before coming to Amarillo to pass this ordinance, why Mark Lee Dickson hasn’t gone back to the cities that he already gotten to pass ordinances that do not go to this level of enforcement to increase the measures?” Truth be told, we are going “back to the cities” that have already passed ordinances that do not go to this level of enforcement. Our approach in those areas, however, is to address the County Commissioners and cover the areas surrounding those cities as that has a way of strengthening the SCFTU ordinances those cities already have on their books. In July 2023, we went back to Colorado City, where we saw Mitchell County’s Commissioners’ Court pass a Sanctuary County for the Unborn ordinance that prohibited abortion trafficking in the unincorporated area of Mitchell County—completely surrounding the three cities within the county: Colorado City, Westbrook, and Loraine. In September 2023, we went back to Morton, where we saw Cochran County’s Commissioners’ Court pass a Sanctuary County for the Unborn ordinance that prohibited abortion trafficking within the unincorporated area of Cochran County – completely surrounding the City of Morton and the northern, eastern, and southern borders of Whiteface. In October 2023, we went back to Lubbock, where we saw Lubbock County’s Commissioners’ Court pass a Sanctuary County for the Unborn ordinance that prohibited abortion trafficking within the unincorporated area of Lubbock County – completely surrounding the City of Lubbock and the cities and towns of Slaton, Shallowater, Idalou, Wolfforth, New Deal, Ransom Canyon, and Buffalo Springs. The passage of the ordinance also covered the southern border of the City of Abernathy. In December 2023, we went back to Ackerly. In their county seat of Lamesa, we saw Dawson County’s Commissioners’ Court pass a Sanctuary County for the Unborn ordinance that prohibited abortion trafficking in the unincorporated area of Dawson County—completely surrounding the City of Lamesa and Los Ybanez and closed off the northern border of Ackerly and the southern border of O’Donnell.
With all that being said, it cannot be emphasized enough that the very first SCFTU ordinance drafted for the City of Amarillo on December 13, 2021, prohibited abortions performed on residents of Amarillo and prohibited the abortion trafficking of a resident of Amarillo.
According to the Amarillo Globe-News, “Simpson says his biggest question is what this ordinance does that is not covered by state law.” I hope, in reading this article, that question is put to rest – both for him, his fellow council members, and for everyone else who reads this article.
In his interview in the Amarillo Globe-News, I could not help but notice that Councilman Simpson seemed to have lots of questions for me. To be honest, I was a bit taken back that he did not reach out to me directly, especially since he told me at a council meeting on December 19 that if he had any questions for me, he would reach out. This prompted me to reach out to Councilman Simpson to let him know that I would be answering his questions publicly, which resulted in a request by the councilman to answer additional questions to the ones which were published in the Amarillo Globe-News, to which I gladly obliged.
In his email, Councilman Simpson asked, “Did any version of the Texas Heartbeat Bill ever include the issues addressed in the Amarillo ordinance – i.e. abortion trafficking, etc.?” The answer is “No.” Another question asked by Councilman Simpson was “Has there been an effort to close these loopholes through the Texas Legislature?” To the best of my knowledge, the answer to that question is also “No.” It is my understanding that during the last legislative session the Texas Legislature was being extra careful not to give any opportunity for any watering down of our pro-life laws.
Next Councilman Simpson pointed out that Houston and Dallas have been mentioned as hubs for abortion trafficking. His question was, “Has there been any effort to work with those communities to outlaw abortion trafficking?” While I would love to see the City Councils of Houston or Dallas prohibit abortion trafficking, we have not received a strong invite from the communities and it appears as though we do not have the votes on either of their city councils to pass such an ordinance.
It is also worth noting that Houston’s new Mayor John Whitmire has a history of voting against pro-life legislation as a State Senator. When the Texas Heartbeat Act was up for a vote in the Senate on May 13, 2021, Whitmire joined eleven other Democrat Senators in voting against the measure. When Whitmire was running for Mayor, a post on his Facebook Page read, “WHITMIRE FIGHTS FOR WOMEN – In the State Senate, John Whitmire has pushed back against Texas’ extreme abortion ban, fighting to protect women’s reproductive rights. As mayor, he’ll keep working to expand access to health care and defend a woman’s right to choose. That’s why Planned Parenthood has named him a ‘Champion for Women’s Health.’”
Another question asked by Councilman Simpson was, “Have any citizens filed suit so far using the ordinances? If yes, can you share some examples. If no, why do you think it hasn’t happened?” To our knowledge no individual has ever sued another person for violating any of the SCFTU ordinances which have been enacted. Of the cities which have passed the ordinances, only one had an abortion facility which was actively performing abortions at the time of the ordinance’s passage. That city, of course, was the City of Lubbock, which passed the ordinance in a landslide election on May 1, 2021.
Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas had started performing abortions on April 15, right before early voting began on April 19. The Lubbock SCFTU Ordinance did not go into effect until June 1, 2021. Planned Parenthood brought a lawsuit on May 17 in an attempt to stop the ordinance from going into effect, but that attempt failed, and the case was dismissed in federal court. On May 31 a letter to Judge Hendrix from the Attorney General’s Office opined that the Lubbock SCFTU Ordinance was consistent with state law – both with and without the passage of SB 8 – the Texas Heartbeat Act. Even though Judge Hendrix did not rule until the night of June 1, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas started complying with the ordinance the morning of June 1 and has complied with the Lubbock SCFTU Ordinance ever since.
The reason why I think there have not been any lawsuits filed in Lubbock, or in any other Sanctuary City for the Unborn, is because the abortion industry is choosing to comply with the law instead of risking the consequences for violating the laws.
Last but not least, Councilman Simpson asked, “Can you share the specific reference in the Texas law that states that it only applies to Texas and would not apply to the areas covered in sanctuary city ordinance?” Councilman Simpson further stated, “I’ve not been able to find that wording that indicates Texas law would not apply to transporting someone to another state.”
Texas Penal Code §1.04(a) states, “Texas has criminal jurisdiction to prosecute when: (1) either the conduct or a result that is an element of the offense occurs inside this state; (2) the conduct outside this state constitutes an attempt to commit an offense inside this state; (3) the conduct outside this state constitutes a conspiracy to commit an offense inside this state, and an act in furtherance of the conspiracy occurs inside this state; or (4) the conduct inside this state constitutes an attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy to commit, or establishes criminal responsibility for the commission of, an offense in another jurisdiction that is also an offense under the laws of this state.”
According to Attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell, “This definitely reaches drug-induced abortions if the second pill is swallowed in Texas. Also subsection (4) could reach out-of-state abortions in states where abortion is banned by statute but a court has enjoined state officials from enforcing it.” So while the State of Texas has no criminal jurisdiction to pursue public enforcement against abortionists and those who aid or abet abortions performed on Texas residents in other states based on Texas Penal Code §1.04(a), nothing prevents the City of Amarillo from creating a private right of action to address abortions that are performed on residents of Amarillo.
Since the Sanctuary City for the Unborn Initiative began in 2019, a lot has changed in the State of Texas. We have gone from living under the regime of Roe, to living under the freedom of Dobbs. We have seen abortion facilities from across the State of Texas leave our state and relocate to New Mexico, which has created an industry of abortion tourism in the Land of Enchantment. Senators and representatives from New Mexico have reached out, asking for help to make their fight in New Mexico a little easier. The problem of abortion trafficking is not a problem that the City of Amarillo can ignore. Every day that passes we hear report after report after report of the abortion trafficking of mothers and their unborn children across state lines. Within the City of Amarillo, Interstate 40 is being used as a “road to Auschwitz” every single day and no amount of misinformation can ever hide that great reality.
A lot may have changed in a post-Roe Texas, but what has not changed is that there is still a battle against abortion to be fought in this country—and here in the City of Amarillo.