A North Texas county has passed an ordinance outlawing abortion and abortion trafficking within its unincorporated area, making it the sixth Texas county to create a “safe haven” for the unborn.

Jack County Commissioners Court unanimously passed the ordinance on Monday, with County Judge Brian Keith Umphress and Commissioners Gary Oliver, Kenny Salazar, Henry Birdwell Jr., and Terry Ward all voting in favor. 

“The Jack County Commissioners’ Court finds all unborn children are human beings who are entitled to the full and equal protection of the laws that prohibit violence against other human beings,” reads the ordinance. “The Jack County Commissioners’ Court finds that Texas men and women are being hurt and traumatized by abortion across our Texas–New Mexico border and sent back to Texas for our county and our cities to deal with the aftermath in our homes, schools, churches, and our hospital.”

The ordinance makes the county a “safe haven county for the unborn,” which includes prohibiting any person from performing an elective abortion on a resident of Jack County. It also prohibits abortion-inducing drugs and the transport of aborted fetal remains from any abortion provider within the unincorporated area of the county. 

Additionally, it prohibits abortion trafficking, stating that it “shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly transport any individual for the purpose of providing or obtaining an elective abortion, regardless of where the elective abortion will occur.” The section applies to the transportation of an individual if the travel begins, ends, or passes through the county.

It is now illegal for individuals to use sections of U.S. Highways 281 and 380; State Highways 59, 114, and 199; and all other sections of roads that are found in the unincorporated area of Jack County for abortion trafficking. 

The ordinance is only enforced through the private enforcement mechanism found in the Texas Heartbeat Act. It allows private citizens to file lawsuits against anyone found to be violating the ordinance, with the exception that no lawsuits can be filed against the mother of the unborn child. 

After the commissioners passed the ordinance, Judge Umphress praised the decision saying, “I am so proud of our community and our county in making this decision today. It sets a standard. By us being bold in our faith and our belief of what is right, I hope that other communities will take the lead and feel comfortable that they are going to stand and be a voice for the unborn.”

“We have an obligation to protect that right and protect those who have no voice. I am very proud of the Commissioner’s Court today and their actions to pass this ordinance that will protect the unborn,” he added. 

Mark Lee Dickson, a director with Right to Life of East Texas and the founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative, told Texas Scorecard that the passage of the ordinance “sends a very loud message to groups like Jane’s Due Process and others involved in abortion trafficking.”

The use of the private enforcement mechanism to enforce these ordinances is important as well. Recently we discovered that the Assistant District Attorney for Randall County, who is over Juveniles, has had a long history with both Planned Parenthood and Jane’s Due Process. That Assistant District Attorney is also married to a sergeant in the Potter County Sheriff’s Department and her father-in-law is the Chief of Police for the City of Amarillo. Since the ordinance is enforced by private citizens bringing lawsuits and not by local law enforcement, no one has to worry about law enforcement not enforcing the anti-abortion law or the D.A.’s Office not prosecuting the cases the ordinance calls upon the office to prosecute.”

In addition to Jack County, five other counties in Texas—including Dawson County, Lubbock County, Cochran County, Goliad County, and Mitchell County—have adopted similar ordinances protecting the unborn. 

Following Jack County Commissioners’ unanimous vote to approve the ordinance, it went into effect immediately.

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.