On Monday, the City Council of Muenster (pop. 1,556) passed an “Ordinance Outlawing Abortion, declaring Muenster a Safe Haven for the Unborn” in a unanimous 5-0 vote. The historic vote made the City of Muenster, located about 80 miles from Fort Worth, the 52nd city in the State of Texas and the 69th city in the nation to pass an ordinance prohibiting abortion. 

The Muenster Initiative officially began as a result of resident Kenneth Bierschenk signing an online petition on November 27, 2023. On that online petition, Bierschenk wrote, “I believe all life needs to be protected from birth to natural death. The unborn need someone to be their advocate and the truth needs to be told about the horrors of abortion.” Reflecting on the process, Bierschenk shared, “We circulated an online petition and many residents expressed interest that they wanted to see their city prohibit abortion to the furthest extent possible.”

Reverend Joseph Keating from Sacred Heart Catholic Church, was one of the many residents who signed the online petition. Reverend Keating said abortion was “against both divine and natural law.” He stated, “Abortion denies human dignity; it is immoral and unjust to kill an innocent person.” 

When it came time to consider the passage of the ordinance, Mayor Tim Felderhoff said he believed that the ordinance aligned with the beliefs and values of the City of Muenster—a city widely known as a German Catholic community. While the City Council members wanted to do something to protect the unborn and their mothers, one council member raised some concerns about the phrase “sanctuary city” due to the illegal immigration problem at our state’s border.

A Director with Right to Life of East Texas recommended an alternative title, which led to Councilmember Clifford Sicking making a motion to adopt the ordinance with one amendment—changing the wording from “sanctuary city for the unborn” to “safe haven for the unborn.” Councilmember Jeff Maas seconded the motion, followed by all five members of the city council voting in favor of the measure. The unanimous vote was met with loud applause and statements of gratitude for their city leaders. 

After the Council Meeting, Senator Drew Springer shared outside of City Hall, “It is great to see that cities are taking the lead and doing what they can do by creating Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn. Muenster is going to call it a ‘Safe Haven for the Unborn,’ but doing the same thing—that we are not going to put up with the abortion movement in any way, whatsoever. Whether that’s pills, trucking aborted fetuses, or whether it’s just operating a clinic. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a small city or a large city. Every city needs to show the values of their citizens, and I’m proud to see Muenster pass it tonight.”

The Muenster Ordinance addresses loopholes that currently exist in our state’s anti-abortion laws. The city’s ordinance (1) prohibits performing elective abortions and aiding or abetting elective abortions within the city limits of Muenster, (2) prohibits elective abortions on residents of Muenster—regardless of where the abortion takes place, (3) prohibits abortion trafficking, (4) prohibits abortion-inducing drugs, (5) prohibits criminal organizations from doing business inside the city limits of Muenster, and (6) prohibits the transport and disposal of the remains of unborn children killed by an elective abortion by abortion providers outside of the State of Texas. 

The Muenster Ordinance is enforced the same way the Texas Heartbeat Act is enforced, through a private enforcement mechanism. The ordinance reads, “Any person, other than the city of Muenster, and any officer or employee of the city, has standing to bring and may bring a civil action against any person or entity that: violates any provision” of this ordinance. The ordinance has a six-year statute of limitations. Muenster’s Ordinance is clear that “a civil action … may not be brought: against the woman upon whom the abortion was performed or induced or attempted to be performed or induced in violation of this ordinance, or against a pregnant woman who intends or seeks to abort her unborn child in violation of this ordinance.” 

The City of Muenster received a letter from Attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell, committing to represent the City of Muenster at no cost to the city or taxpayers for any litigation that may arise from the passage of their ordinance outlawing abortion and abortion trafficking. 

Muenster is the ninth city and the fourteenth political subdivision in Texas to pass an ordinance prohibiting the abortion trafficking of their residents. Cities and counties prohibiting the abortion trafficking of their residents include the following: Cisco, Slaton, Athens, Abilene, San Angelo, Plainview, Odessa, Little River-Academy, Mitchell County, Goliad County, Cochran County, Lubbock County, and Dawson County. An initiative is currently underway to pass a similar ordinance in the City of Amarillo. 

Residents in cities and counties across Texas who are interested in seeing their local government pass an enforceable ordinance attempting to close some of the loopholes in Texas abortion laws are encouraged to sign the online petition from the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative. More cities and counties throughout Texas are expected to consider ordinances in the coming weeks. 

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 and the founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative.