Since June of 2019, 62 cities in the United States have passed ordinances outlawing abortion within their city limits. This year alone, 19 cities and one county across the United States have outlawed abortion—10 of those cities are in the Lone Star State.

The 10 cities in Texas that outlawed abortion in 2022 include: Jewett (pop. 1,250), Shallowater (pop. 2,613), Lindale (pop. 6,730), Marquez (pop. 313), Normangee (pop. 778), Athens (pop. 13,121), Abilene (pop. 124,407), San Angelo (pop. 101,612), Plainview (pop. 22,343), and Odessa (pop. 125,413). The combined population of these 10 cities in Texas is 398,580.

Right To Life of East Texas Director Mark Lee Dickson gathers interest petitions after a church service at Church of the Open Door in Bellmead in April.

While last year brought in a total of 22 cities outlawing abortion, the combined population of last year’s 22 Texas cities was 307,966 (90,614 less than the total population of this year’s cities). Although last year’s largest city was Lubbock (pop. 264,000), which is the largest city to outlaw abortion to date, the next two largest Texas cities outlawing abortion in 2021 were Levelland (pop. 14,582) and Slaton (pop. 6,235). While the top three largest cities to outlaw abortion in 2022 (Odessa, Abilene, and San Angelo) were smaller than Lubbock, they all have a population of more than 100,000.

Odessa Mayor Javier Joven speaks at North Park Assembly of God Church in Abilene in September at a rally in support of Abilene becoming a Sanctuary City for the Unborn.

Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinances Passed Outside the State of Texas

When looking at what happened outside of Texas, 2022 saw nine cities and one county outlaw abortion within their jurisdiction (six cities in Nebraska, one city and one county in New Mexico, one city in Louisiana, and one city in Iowa). The combined population of these nine cities and one county was a total of 61,915 people. In 2021 only four cities outside of Texas outlawed abortion within their jurisdiction (two cities in Nebraska and two cities in Ohio). The combined population of those four cities was 56,550, showing 2022’s combined population total increase by 5,365.

City Councils in Texas Who Voted Against the Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance

While the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative has had a high success rate in Texas, that does not mean the initiative has seen a victory by a vote of every city’s council. In 2022, the city councils of six cities in Texas voted against Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinances, including Alvin (pop. 27,140), San Angelo (pop. 101,612), Plainview (pop. 22,343), Abilene (pop. 124,407), Athens (pop. 13,121), and Midlothian (pop. 37,053). Despite these six losses, four of these losses became victories when citizens passed the ordinances through local November ballot initiatives in the cities of Athens, Plainview, San Angelo, and Abilene.

One of the iconic statues throughout San Angelo with a “Vote For Life” sign. San Angelo became a Sanctuary City for the Unborn on November 8, 2022.

City Councils in Texas Who Were Presented Ordinances But Have Not Yet Taken Action

During 2022, three Texas cities were presented ordinances but have not yet taken action. Those three cities are Chandler (pop. 3,400), Eustace (pop. 991), and Little River-Academy (pop. 2,048). While Little River-Academy has postponed the vote until their January council meeting, Chandler and Eustace have yet to make any decision on if or when the ordinance will be brought back up.

Mayors Unwilling to Move Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinances Forward

Throughout 2022 discussions took place with the mayors of several Texas cities whose residents had voiced their desire to see their cities pass ordinances outlawing abortion at the local level. And while many residents of their cities were interested, Mayor Ginger Nelson of Amarillo (pop. 201,234) and Mayor Stephen Santellana of Wichita Falls (pop. 106,876) were unwilling to move the measures forward.

A Conclusion to Planned Parenthood v. the City of Lubbock and the Overturning of Roe v. Wade

The year 2022 also saw another court victory for the Sanctuary City for the Unborn movement. While Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services had sued the City of Lubbock in the middle of May 2021, the abortion giant lost in federal district court at the beginning of June 2021 and chose to appeal in November 2021. In January 2022, the night before the National March For Life in Washington, D.C., Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services withdrew their appeal in their lawsuit against the City of Lubbock, effectively ending Planned Parenthood’s litigation against the City of Lubbock.

In addition to this, the movement also benefited from the June 2022 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Even though Texas has banned abortion from the point of conception, the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn ordinances are still worth passing as they go further than the state abortion bans, adding a layer of protection for residents of their cities. Many of the ordinances even prohibit abortions performed on residents of their cities, even if those abortions are performed across state lines in New Mexico or Colorado.

What’s Next In Texas?

While the next city to pass a local abortion ban is anyone’s guess, it is likely that 2023 will bring more sanctuary cities for the unborn. Texas cities of high priority for the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative include: Amarillo (pop. 201,234), Midland (pop. 153,768), Wichita Falls (pop. 106,876), Conroe (pop. 96,214), Bryan (pop. 88,165), Jacksonville (pop. 14,923), and Wolfforth (pop. 6,300).

Right To Life of East Texas Director Mark Lee Dickson and Pro-Life Waco Director John Pisciotta meet with Bears For Life on the Baylor University campus to discuss Sanctuary City efforts in Waco.

The Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative will be focusing on introducing county ordinances as well, with high priorities on Lubbock County (pop. 310,639), Ellis County (pop. 192,455), and Henderson County (pop. 82,150). While there are currently no counties in Texas that have passed county ordinances outlawing abortion within their unincorporated areas, the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative is optimistic to see that reality change in 2023.

Those who wish to see their city or county pass an enforceable ordinance prohibiting abortion at the local level are encouraged to sign the online petition on the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn website.

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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