On Monday, the City of Anson (population 2,556) became the 38th city in the state of Texas, and the 42nd in America, to pass an enforceable ordinance outlawing abortion within their city limits.

Located 26 miles north of Abilene, Anson is the county seat for Jones County, which is known for its conservative values. During Jones County’s 2020 presidential election, 84 percent (5,660) voted Republican, 14.8 percent (999) voted Democrat, and 1.2 percent (82) voted for other candidates. During the 2018 Republican Party primary, voters in Jones County had the opportunity to vote on Proposition 7, which read, “I believe abortion should be abolished in Texas.” Out of 1,742 votes, 1,286 voted for outlawing abortion in Texas, and 456 voted against.

The interest to see abortion outlawed in Anson started in December 2019 when citizen Grantland Rice became the first to sign the online petition. At the time, only seven cities had passed such ordinances; among them was the small city of Westbrook (pop. 312), the only West Texas city to have outlawed abortion at that time.

By the time citizens Donna Morrison and Sherry Gamblin signed the petition over a year later in May 2021, the number of cities that had outlawed abortion had grown to 28. The total number of West Texas cities that had outlawed abortion had grown to 11, with Colorado City (pop. 4,146), Big Spring (pop. 28,862), Whiteface (pop. 449), New Home (pop. 320), Morton (pop. 2,006), Ackerly (pop. 251), Goldsmith (pop. 257), Carbon (pop. 348), Gorman (pop. 1,083), Lubbock (pop. 264,000) and Abernathy (pop. 2,839) having joined Westbrook.

While the interest from the online petitions helped lay the groundwork, the effort to see abortion outlawed really gained traction in August 2021 when Pastor Scott Beard of FountainGate Fellowship in Abilene invited Pastor Cody Cochran of Bethel Assembly in Anson to a breakfast meeting with a director from Right To Life of East Texas. By then, the number of sanctuary cities for the unborn had grown to 37. Of those, the total number of cities in West Texas had grown to 15 with the addition of Levelland (pop. 14,582), Sundown (pop. 1,397), Sterling City (pop. 888), and Eastland (pop. 3,970).

On September 11, Impact (pop. 20) joined as the 38th city in the nation, 36th in Texas, and the 16th in West Texas. A few days after Impact’s vote, Anson City Council had a first reading of their own ordinance to outlaw abortion.

After hearing a presentation from a director with Right To Life of East Texas, Councilwoman Leticia Hernandez made the motion to pass the ordinance. Councilwoman Misti Seay seconded, and the city council voted 4-0 to move forward. However, the process was not over yet. In order for the ordinance to go into effect, it would need to survive a final vote at the next city council meeting.

While the ordinance did not make it onto the agenda for the very next city council meeting, it did find its way on the agenda for November 8. Since Anson had voted to move forward in outlawing abortion in September, the total number of cities outlawing abortion had risen to 41. West Texas had gained two more cities: Nazareth (pop. 311) and Cisco (pop. 3,913). Many were wondering if Anson would become the 42nd.

On Sunday, Pastor Cochran concluded each one of Bethel Assembly’s three church services with a call to show up early outside of city hall and pray for their leaders as they consider how they would vote on this second and final reading of the ordinance. Perhaps to no one’s surprise, the people of Anson rallied, showing that this issue was one they truly cared about.

When it was time for the actual city council meeting, both the council chambers and the corresponding hallway were full of citizens supporting the ordinance. Many spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, and not one who spoke opposed the ordinance.

“My family has lived in Anson since there was an Anson. Like Billy, I noticed that we opened up by praying to God, so it would only make sense that you would vote according to the Word of God,” said Anson resident Colt Wood. “And, like Treyla said, yeah, they may or may not be setting up clinics in Anson, but we want to be a part of leading the charge in establishing Christian culture in our community.”

“We want to follow suit with Eastland and Big Spring, and maybe by us passing this, that will create momentum for the surrounding counties,” Wood said. “If a grassroots movement can establish a pro-life culture in Texas, maybe it will inspire a grassroots movement for pro-life across this country.”

“I am one of five generations who was raised here in Anson, Texas. I am not currently a mother, but I do plan to become a mother in the future and continue to plan to raise my family here,” Anson citizen Mariah Mayo said. “I have babysat many of the children here and enjoy getting to see them grow up. I am also a nurse here in Anson and do not want to have to be on that side of abortions, either.”

“I stand here today for my coworkers who were unable to be here today, my ancestors who are no longer with us, and the innocent unborn who are unable to have their voices heard,” Mayo said. “I agree 100 percent with what my preacher said, and I, too, want abortions to be outlawed. Let’s add this to our many reasons why we are proud to live here in the great city of Anson, Texas.”

After consulting with City Attorney Chad Cowan for the second time, the Anson City Council was ready to vote. Councilwoman Hernandez was quick to make the motion to pass the ordinance, with Councilwoman Misti Seay seconding. The second and final vote was an unanimous vote of 5-0.

The Anson ordinance states, “It shall be unlawful for any person to procure or perform an abortion of any type and at any stage of pregnancy in the City of Anson, Texas,” and, “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion that occurs in the City of Anson, Texas.” The ordinance defines abortion 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.”

If Anson faces a lawsuit as a result of the adoption of this ordinance, attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell, former Texas solicitor general and the legal mind behind the enforcement mechanism in the Texas Heartbeat Act, has agreed to represent the city of Anson at no cost to the city and taxpayers for any litigation that may result.

The prayers of the people of Anson had been answered. “Tonight is a great victory for the Kingdom of God and for the City of Anson,” Pastor Cochran said. “Very thankful for the men and women on the city council of Anson, and thankful for the many men and women that showed up to pray and support!”

A letter signed by senators and representatives across Texas, which is dated January 23, 2020, was written to give support and encouragement to cities that might be considering outlawing abortion. The first signature on that letter was that of State Sen. Charles Perry (R–Lubbock), who helped lead the charge to see abortion outlawed throughout West Texas.

The letter states:

The Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinance outlaws abortion within city limits, declares abortion to be murder, and protects municipalities from abortion providers setting up shop within the city’s jurisdiction. The ordinance does not defy federal law, but enables cities to take bold action for Life while remaining within the existing legal framework of Roe v. Wade. The ordinance does not contradict the United States Constitution; rather, the language is intentionally and carefully drafted to protect both tiny Texans from abortion and cities from costly lawsuits. Since there is some immediate enforcement, through civil liability, the ordinance serves as an important deterrent to the abortion industry from moving into their jurisdiction. Importantly, the ordinance does not penalize women who seek or undergo abortions, but places the penalty on the party who most deserves it — the abortionist and the industry profiting from the unjust procedure.

More cities are expected to outlaw abortion in the near future. 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.

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.