Cochran County Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance outlawing abortion and abortion trafficking within the unincorporated area of Cochran County.

On Thursday, Cochran County Commissioners adopted a proposal that prohibits the killing of an unborn child via abortion within the unincorporated part of the county by restricting access to its highways and airport for anyone seeking to traffic pregnant women for abortions across state lines. 

The ordinance declares that the county is a “sanctuary for the unborn” and states that the county will do as much as possible to stop abortion trafficking while complying with state and federal laws. 

The section of the ordinance addressing abortion trafficking reads: 

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. This section shall apply only if the transportation of such individual begins, ends, or passes through the unincorporated area of Cochran County.

The county, located on the border of New Mexico, is the latest Texas county to adopt the proposal. Lea County and Roosevelt County in New Mexico, which share a border with Cochran County, were the first two counties in America to pass “Sanctuary County for the Unborn” Ordinances. While the New Mexico ordinances differ from the Texas ordinances, the spirit behind the ordinances is the same. 

Two other counties in the state adopted similar proposals earlier this year, including Mitchell County in West Texas and Goliad County in South Texas. Both ordinances rely on residents to bring civil actions against others they believe violate it. 

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 “Like all other abortion trafficking ordinances, the Cochran County Sanctuary County for the Unborn Ordinance does not interfere with the right to travel, nor does the ordinance require any type of enforcement on behalf of Cochran County.”

“The ordinance only imposes penalties on those who are using roads within the county to traffic pregnant mothers across state lines for the purpose of an abortion,” he added.

With many pro-abortion advocates calling the ordinance unconstitutional, Dickson assured that the abortion trafficking provision should survive any court challenge regarding its constitutionality.

The abortion trafficking provision of the Cochran County Ordinance tracks the current wording of the Mann Act almost verbatim, with the exception that we have a broader definition of the prohibited purposes. Our prohibited purposes include abortion trafficking. Abortion trafficking would have fallen within the erstwhile “immoral purpose” definition of the Mann Act. Since all previous iterations of the Mann Act were upheld as constitutional, the abortion trafficking provision should survive any court challenge regarding its constitutionality.

Before the measure’s passage, the Cochran County Commission asked County Attorney Amanda Martin if she believed the ordinance was legal. Martin pointed to a provision within the Texas Heartbeat Act, which explicitly allows cities and counties to regulate abortion.

If Cochran County faces any litigation resulting from the passage of their ordinance, former Solicitor General of Texas Jonathan Mitchell has agreed to represent the county at no cost to the county and their taxpayers. 

Following the unanimous vote to approve, the ordinance 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.