Since June of 2019, 43 cities in the United States have passed ordinances outlawing abortion within their city limits. This year alone, 26 cities across the United States have outlawed abortion—22 of those cities are in the Lone Star State.

The 22 cities in Texas that outlawed abortion in 2021 include: Grapeland (pop. 1,489), Goldsmith (pop. 257), Carbon (pop. 348), and Gorman (pop. 1,083), Murchison (pop. 606), Latexo (pop. 322), Lubbock (pop. 264,000), Abernathy (pop. 2,839), Poynor (pop. 314), Levelland (pop. 14,582), Sundown (pop. 1,397), and Sterling City (pop. 888), Centerville (pop. 892), Eastland (pop. 3,970), Leona (pop. 175), Crawford (pop. 733), Brownsboro (pop. 1,036), Impact (pop. 20), Nazareth (pop. 311), Cisco (pop. 3,913), Anson (pop. 2,556), and Slaton (pop. 6,235).

Sterling City mayor and city council take a picture after the historic vote outlawing abortion in June.

Councilman Mike Cummings of the City of Joaquin (pop. 850), which became the fourth city to outlaw abortion when their ordinance was passed in September 2019, couldn’t be more thrilled with the progress of the movement. Councilman Cummings shared, “The unborn children are safer in Texas because of what cities have. 2019 ended with seven cities in Texas having outlawed abortion, 2020 ended with 10 more cities in Texas having outlawed abortion, and now in 2021, we are ending the year with 22 cities in Texas having outlawed abortion. The City of Joaquin is not alone in standing for life!” Cummings continued, “Cities across Texas are standing united that babies will not be murdered by abortion in their cities.” This year, Councilman Cummings has advocated for the passage of the ordinance in several cities throughout Texas, including the cities of Goldsmith, Lubbock, Abernathy, Levelland, and Sundown.

His message to each city he has spoken to has been straightforward, encouraging them to do what is right and represent the people of their community—including the unborn. Joaquin was one of the seven cities sued by the ACLU in February 2020. After about three months, the ACLU withdrew their lawsuit, and abortion remains banned in every city that was sued. The lawsuit did not cost the city of Joaquin or their constituents one cent. Councilman Cummings shared, “We were warned of the detrimental economic impact this would have on our city should we decide to adopt an ordinance effectively outlawing abortion inside our city. We have found this to be quite the opposite. We have families moving in to raise their kids in a community where we chose to stand for life when we had the chance! We have had several new businesses start up in our city, and we have more moving in. Two years later, we do not regret our decision. God has blessed our city because of this!”

Big Spring Mayor Shannon Thomason speaks before the Eastland City Commission at the Eastland City Hall in June.

Mayor Shannon Thomason of the City of Big Spring (pop. 28,862), whose city passed the ordinance in January 2020, has a similar testimony. Mayor Thomason shared, “Our sales tax revenue projections from 2021 have outpaced our estimates by over 1 million. And we’re still growing. That’s a million more than we budgeted to receive.” Like Councilman Cummings from Joaquin, Thomason has found himself sharing his city’s experience with outlawing abortion in many cities this year, including Lubbock, Abernathy, Levelland, Eastland, and Anson.

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 in every city. In 2021, four cities in Texas voted against the enforceable ordinance, including Rising Star (pop. 835), Edinburg (pop. 101,170), Tulia (pop. 4,967), and San Angelo (pop. 101,612).

In October, the mayor and city council of San Angelo voted 5-2 to pass a non-binding proclamation “supporting the Right to Life and supporting the Texas Heartbeat Act” instead of passing an enforceable ordinance outlawing abortion within their city limits. Mayor Brenda Gunter stood firm in her position that if San Angelo was going to see abortion outlawed, the citizens would have to do it themselves through the initiative and referendum process provided in the city charter. The move infuriated many in attendance, including Pastor Ryan Buck of Immanuel Baptist Church. Pastor Buck shared, “The mayor and the city council are trying to circumvent their responsibilities. We don’t have a referendum or a vote for every decision the city council makes.” Buck continued, “They are trying to get the monkey off of their back on this one issue, but they put the monkey on their back whenever they ran for office and were elected by the people of San Angelo to represent them.” Due to the inaction of their leadership, residents in both San Angelo and Abilene (pop. 124,407) are working toward forcing a public vote on outlawing abortion through the initiative and referendum process provided by their city charters.

Residents in the City of Lindale (pop. 6,730), whose city rejected the ordinance in February 2020, plan to follow a similar path in the new year. Lindale resident Janna Moore shared, “It’s disappointing that our city had a chance to stand for life and outlaw abortion, but we didn’t. America was watching, and Lindale dropped the ball. Hopefully our city can make this right in the new year.”

A Chandler resident speaks before the city council at the Chandler City Hall in December.

While 2021 saw some cities pass the ordinance and others vote against it, some cities have yet to make a decision on the matter. The cities of Smyer (pop. 474), Odessa (pop. 125,413), Merkel (pop. 2,643), and Chandler (pop. 3,219) have all been presented ordinances outlawing abortion, and residents in their communities are anxious to see those ordinances on their agenda for a vote. In addition to going before these councils, the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative held interest meetings and strategy meetings in cities throughout Texas, including in the cities of Alvin (pop. 27,140), Amarillo (pop. 199,924), Athens (pop. 13,121), Dickinson (pop. 21,216), Granbury (pop. 11,101), Groom (pop. 574), Henderson (pop. 13,812), Pampa (pop. 18,401), Plainview (pop. 22,343), Santa Fe (pop. 13,509), Shenandoah (pop. 3,101), Tyler (pop. 109,000), Waco (pop. 141,377), and Wichita Falls (pop. 106,876).

With assistance from Right To Life of East Texas Director Mark Lee Dickson, Dickinson resident Faith Montgomery led a Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn interest meeting for the Dickinson and Santa Fe communities in July at Arcadia First Baptist Church in Santa Fe, Texas.

 

The only Sanctuary City for the Unborn that faced a lawsuit in 2021 was Lubbock, Texas. Out of the 43 cities in the United States that passed ordinances outlawing abortion, Lubbock was the only city that had an abortion facility within their city limits at the time their ordinance was passed. The lawsuit, which was filed on May 17, lasted for about two weeks. Prior to a May 28 hearing in the courtroom of the Honorable Judge James Wesley Hendrix of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, the judge asked the office of the attorney general to weigh in on the “state law” questions posed by Planned Parenthood in this particular case. In response to the request, Judd E. Stone, the solicitor general of Texas, released a seven-page letter on May 31 to Judge Hendrix’s court. The letter read:

In our view, Planned Parenthood has not shown that Lubbock’s ordinance is inconsistent with state law. … The Texas Legislature has clarified that state law does not prevent cities like Lubbock from imposing regulations like those that Planned Parenthood challenges. … Planned Parenthood has not identified a statute that “explicitly states that political subdivisions are prohibited from regulating or prohibiting abortion”—let alone one that prohibits the type of regulations at issue here. … Lubbock’s ordinance is entirely consistent with state law.

Late on June 1, 2021, Judge Hendrix ruled in Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services, et al. v. City of Lubbock, Texas with a 50-page ruling dismissing Planned Parenthood’s case for a lack of jurisdiction. Since June 1, Planned Parenthood has complied with the law and has not committed a single abortion in the City of Lubbock since the law went into effect.

Cisco resident Ruth York; Lubbock residents Nikki Allen, Tanya Allen, and Dorothy Boyett; Right To Life of East Texas Director Mark Lee Dickson; attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell; and Lubbock resident Gloria Toti after the May 28 hearing on the Lubbock ordinance outlawing abortion in the courtroom of the Honorable Judge James Wesley Hendrix of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

2021 has also been a great year for the Texas Heartbeat Act, which survived before the Supreme Court of the United States. While the Texas Heartbeat Act outlaws abortion from the point of a detectable heartbeat, the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn ordinances outlaw abortion from the moment of conception.

While cities in Texas have always had the ability to outlaw abortion within their city limits, the Texas Heartbeat Act made this fact even more clear. Texas Government Code 311.036(b), states, “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.”

According to the Texas Heartbeat Act, “The legislature finds that the State of Texas never repealed, either expressly or by implication, the state statutes enacted before the ruling in Roe v. Wade that prohibit and criminalize abortion unless the Mother’s life is in danger.”

While the next city to outlaw abortion next is anyone’s guess, it is likely certain that 2022 will bring more sanctuary cities for the unborn. Those who wish to see their city follow suit 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.