In a unanimous vote, Sterling City, Texas, located 70 miles southeast of Midland and 40 miles northwest of San Angelo, became the 32nd city in the nation to pass an ordinance outlawing abortion within its city limits.
Sterling City Mayor Lane Horwood regarded the vote as “an awesome opportunity to be a part of a grassroots movement” both for Texas and the nation. The vote comes during a time when the Biden administration has committed to abortion access in every zip code, bringing concern to many throughout the United States—including those within Sterling County.
The majority of Sterling County’s voting population is made up of conservative Republicans who want to see abortion abolished in the state of Texas. During the 2020 presidential election in the county, 91.4 percent voted Republican, 8 percent voted Democrat, and 0.6 percent voted for other candidates. This is even more conservative than the county was four years before, when 86.7 percent voted Republican, 11.1 percent voted Democrat, and 2.2 percent voted for other candidates in the 2016 presidential election.
During the 2018 Republican Party primary, voters in Sterling County had the opportunity to vote on Proposition 7, which read, “I believe abortion should be abolished in Texas.” Out of 356 votes, 251 voted in favor of outlawing abortion in Texas, and 105 voted against.
In 2020, 92.3 percent of Republican Party of Texas delegates voted in favor of adding this plank to the Republican Party of Texas 2020 platform, stating, “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.”
The Sterling City ordinance outlawing abortion 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 Sterling City, Texas,” and “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion that occurs in the City of Sterling City, Texas.”
Abortion is defined by the ordinance 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.”
The ordinance, which contains both a public and private mechanism of enforcement, does not go against Roe v. Wade (1973), Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), or any Supreme Court ruling, but works within those rulings and current federal and state laws to go as far as Sterling City can legally go to prohibit and restrict abortion access under the confines of the undue burden standard that was set by the United States Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). The Sterling City ordinance does not penalize the mother of the unborn child that has been aborted, but penalizes the abortionist and anyone who is found to be aiding or abetting the abortionist.
Abortion-inducing drugs are also outlawed by the ordinance and declared to be contraband. The ordinance states, “It shall be unlawful for any person to possess or distribute abortion-inducing drugs in the City of Sterling City, Texas, and it shall be unlawful for any person to mail or ship abortion-inducing drugs into the City of Sterling City, Texas.”
Abortion-inducing drugs are defined in the ordinance as “mifepristone, misoprostol, and any drug or medication that is used to terminate the life of an unborn child.” The ordinance is clear that the term “abortion-inducing drugs” does not include birth-control devices or oral contraceptives.
Pastor Chance Nichols of Christ Fellowship Church in Big Spring led the charge in presenting the documents before Sterling City’s mayor and city council. “I am here tonight because Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn is a movement that I am passionate about, and because I thought it might be helpful to hear from a citizen of a city that has already passed the ordinance before you,” Nichols shared. In January 2020, Big Spring, Texas (pop. 28,862) was the 11th city in the nation to pass an ordinance outlawing abortion within city limits. Big Spring held the title of the largest city to have outlawed abortion until Lubbock, Texas (pop. 264,000), passed its version of the ordinance in May 2021.
Upon hearing the presentation, Mayor Horwood shared with the city council that the city attorney stood in favor of the ordinance. The city attorney also shared that he would proudly defend his city from any litigation that arose from passing the ordinance. A motion was made and seconded in favor, and it passed unanimously in a 5-0 vote.
The vote follows the Texas cities of Levelland (pop. 14,582) and Sundown (pop. 1,397) as the third to outlaw abortion since a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood against the City of Lubbock was dismissed in federal court. On May 1, Lubbock citizens passed an ordinance outlawing abortion within city limits.
Meanwhile, 170 miles northeast of Sterling City, another city discussed the possibility of passing an ordinance outlawing abortion within its jurisdiction. By night’s end, the city commission of Eastland (pop. 3,970), located about 55 miles east of Abilene, voted 5-0 in a procedural vote to direct the Eastland city attorney to work with a director from Right To Life of East Texas on an ordinance outlawing abortion to their liking. Upon completion, that ordinance will be voted on at the next meeting of Eastland’s city commissioners.
The Eastland ordinance is expected to pass once it goes through this process. At the packed council chambers, Eastland County Republican Chair Robin Hayes stated that hundreds of petitions had been collected throughout the community, and the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative confirmed that more than 400 signatures had been obtained in the city.
These numbers should not be a surprise to anyone. The City of Eastland is the seat of Eastland County—which is deep red. During the 2020 presidential election, 87.24 percent in the county voted Republican, 11.87 percent voted Democrat, and 0.89 percent voted for other candidates. Four years prior, 86.3 percent voted Republican, 11.1 percent voted Democrat, and 2.5 percent voted for other candidates. No one is expecting the City of Eastland to turn blue anytime soon.
Pastor Jerry Maston, of River of Life Church in Eastland, is one of many who supports his city outlawing abortion. “Abortion is nothing less than taking the life of an unborn, innocent baby. Abortion appears to be innocent until it is viewed. What you don’t see must be blameless, but when it is observed, it is as hideous as torturing any human being until they die,” Maston said. “Proverbs 6:17 clearly states that God hates hands that shed innocent blood. If we fail to speak in regard to this and strongly stand against it, we become guilty as well.”
Residents in cities throughout Texas are doing their part to sign the online petition and get their friends and family members to sign, as well. As it stands now, the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative is expecting the cities of Mount Enterprise (pop. 447), Crawford (pop. 733), Centerville (pop. 892), Shenandoah (pop. 2,987), and San Angelo (101,004) to address the possibility of outlawing abortion in their communities by summer’s end.
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