Edinburg (pop. 101,170), located just 20 minutes from the U.S.-Mexico border, could be one of the next cities in Texas to declare itself a sanctuary city for the unborn.

Edinburg is the county seat of Hidalgo County, a Texas county that Biden carried with 58.04 percent of the vote. If the city were to pass the ordinance, it would be the first city to outlaw abortion in a county where a majority of the residents voted Democrat in the 2020 presidential election.

The effort to see Edinburg pass an ordinance outlawing abortion began when Mary Villarreal, pro-life coordinator for Holy Family Church in Edinburg, heard about a federal judge dismissing a lawsuit that Planned Parenthood brought against the city of Lubbock for outlawing abortion within city limits. The news of the lawsuit’s dismissal encouraged Villarreal to approach her council with an opportunity to stand for life. “Despite what many would believe, the majority of the people here in Hidalgo County are pro-life. We are polluted, like much of the country is. Many in leadership do not want to give us our voice back,” Villarreal said. “We need more in leadership who [will] stand up and be the true voice of the people—the voice of both the born and the unborn.”

Richard Montesdeoca agreed with Villarreal. Montesdeoca is a part of Prosperity Hidalgo PAC and stands in full support of the effort, believing that outlawing abortion is what the majority of Hidalgo County wants for their community. “The Hispanic community is conservative, and the individuals creating havoc are from outside of the state of Texas. It isn’t consistent with the Hispanic culture to have an abortion. Large families are typical and encouraged in our community.”

On June 15, 2021, Villarreal and Montesdeoca ended up leading more than 50 residents of Edinburg before the mayor and city council to request that they recognize June 27, 2021, as Pro-Life Apostolate Day. A part of that proclamation read, “We respectfully request and petition our local governing body to consider maintaining the city of Edinburg as a Sanctuary City for the Unborn.”

Mayor Richard Molina, and all three members of the Edinburg City Council, spoke in support of seeing their city become one of the next sanctuary cities for the unborn and the first in the Rio Grande Valley. “I’m only one vote; we vote as a team. But you do have my commitment that you will get this done,” Molina spoke before the crowded council chambers.

Councilmember David White said he’d vote now if he could, stating, “This is something we definitely need to address and we should be looking into. 100 percent behind it.” Mayor Pro Tem Jorge Salinas said, “I was not aware that there was a group that does this, much less here in the city of Edinburg, but my hat’s off to you and all your vigor in getting out and being proponents for this. I support you 100 percent.” Councilman Johnny Garcia echoed support and emphasized the responsibility local officials had as spiritual leaders of the community whose job is to “pray for those children and also for the families” and to “battle for those kids that cannot speak for themselves.”

The statements issued by the mayor and council of Edinburg did not go unnoticed by the abortion industry. Amy Hagstrom Miller, the president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, released a statement of her own. Referencing the nearest abortion facility located in McAllen, just 12 miles south of Edinburg, Miller shared, “Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen is open, and we are here for the Rio Grande Valley community – our staff live here and raise their families here, too. We know Texans deserve better than attacks on their reproductive decision making and our clinic provides the compassionate, quality medical care people in the RGV have come to count on from Whole Woman’s Health.”

The abortion industry was not the lone voice of dissent.

One of Molina’s opponents in the upcoming mayoral election this November also spoke against the idea of outlawing abortion. Gilbert Enriquez, former Edinburg city councilman, attempted to justify abortion and his opposition for the city weighing in on the matter. “I believe it’s their choice because we all have different circumstances in our lives.” Enriquez continued, “I think it’s a choice that the mother, the father, and their God have to determine, and I don’t think the city council should make that determination for anyone regardless of our faith and our opinions and our positions on these issues. That’s not what city government does. It doesn’t operate on the social side.”

While Enriquez may believe outlawing abortion is not what city government does, cities across Texas appear to disagree with him. Since the Biden administration released a statement earlier this year committing to abortion access in every zip code, many cities throughout Texas have outlawed abortion within their city limits. In January, it was the city of Grapeland; in February, Goldsmith and Carbon; in March, GormanMurchison, and Latexo; in May, LubbockAbernathy and Poynor; and in June, LevellandSundown, and Sterling City. The size of the cities that have outlawed abortion this year range in size from populations of 256 to 264,000.

The Texas Legislature has also gone on record saying that prohibiting abortion is within the realm of what city governments can do. Senate Bill 8, which was passed during the 87th Legislative Session, 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.”

There are currently 29 cities in the state of Texas (32 in the United States) that have passed ordinances outlawing abortion within their city limits. Many of these cities have done so because they have heard about the reality that abortion not only kills unborn children, but also hurts the lives of their mothers. According to Right To Life of East Texas, the support for the movement in Edinburg is not unlike the support that has been seen in cities throughout the state of Texas.

One of those standing in support of her elected officials is Mayra Cavazos, president of the Holy Family Pro-Life Apostolate. Cavazos was one of the many who helped organize the Pro-Life Caravan on June 27, the day the city of Edinburg designated as Pro-Life Apostolate Day. Almost 100 vehicles with more than 300 people took part in the event.

“This is just a start of the movement of the City of Edinburg becoming the first city to become a sanctuary city for the unborn outlawing abortion in the Rio Grande Valley,” Cavazos shared.

Other groups whose members were involved in the community-led initiative include 40 Days For Life of the Rio Grande Valley, Right To Life of East Texas, Latinos For America First, Make America Godly Again, the Objective Watchers of the Legal System (OWLS), the Diocese of Brownsville, Saint Joseph’s Church in Edinburg, Sacred Heart Church in Edinburg, Baptist Temple Church in Edinburg, the Knights of Columbus of Edinburg, Saint Jude Catholic Church in Pharr, Grace Community Church in Pharr, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Mission, Our Lady Perpetual Health in McAllen, Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, and several other churches throughout the city of Edinburg and the county of Hidalgo.

An ordinance outlawing abortion has been drafted for the city of Edinburg and has been hand-delivered to the city. If the Edinburg ordinance outlawing abortion is passed and litigation arises, the city will not be without expert legal defense. Attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell, former solicitor general of Texas, has already agreed to represent the city of Edinburg at no cost to the city or taxpayers for any litigation that may result from the city’s passage of their ordinance outlawing abortion.

So far, the sanctuary cities for the unborn ordinances have survived every challenge that has been raised against them.

In February of 2020, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against seven sanctuary cities for the unborn only to withdraw their lawsuit in May of the same year. Every one of the seven sanctuary cities for the unborn was represented by Mitchell at no cost to the cities and taxpayers. The cities were well represented and defended, and abortion continues to remain banned in every city that was sued.

In May of 2021, a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood against the city of Lubbock was dismissed in federal court.

The Edinburg ordinance to outlaw abortion is not currently on the city council agenda, but many residents throughout Edinburg are requesting that the ordinance be placed on the agenda for a vote in the near future. “No one can no longer say that they did not know about a pro-life movement in the valley. We are going to be loud, and we are going to be a voice for the unborn. We will be silent no more!” Cavazos shared.

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.