More Texas cities are considering resolutions in support of abortion rights
As a growing number of city governments in Texas consider resolutions in support of reproductive rights, local leaders are stressing their actions won’t skirt state law.
But abortion-rights supporters insist city resolutions go beyond symbolism and are necessary to reinstall a sense of security within Texas communities.
The San Antonio City Council meets Tuesday to consider a resolution recommending local funds not be used to store or pass on information related to a criminal investigation of an abortion, Texas Public Radio reported. The resolution will also formally rebuke anti-abortion laws or rulings that limit access to the procedure.
Similar resolutions are being considered across the state in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that overturned Roe v. Wade and Texas’ so-called “trigger” law, which essentially outlaws the procedure in the state except in instances where the mother’s life is in danger. That law takes effect Aug. 25.
“I think it's important for people to feel supported regardless,” said Karen Muñoz, an activist and graduate of St. Mary’s Law School in San Antonio. “It's important that my city government makes me feel that way when I feel as though the federal government and the state government aren’t supporting me.”
But Muñoz said that limiting what local law enforcement agencies can do is more than just symbolism.
“There's only so much we can do within our city charter, but we are allowed to encourage [the San Antonio Police Department] to deprioritize things,” she said. “If we're not collecting the data, then it's less likely that people can be criminalized for it.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said the Texas law disregards that abortion is often necessary when medical complications — or even death — is possible during a pregnancy.
“We need local leaders who will support Texans in a state that's hostile to reproductive rights,” Adriana Piñon, ACLU of Texas' interim legal director, said in a statement. “Municipalities must take bold action now to protect constituents' privacy, healthcare and civil rights — by setting priorities for its employees, including the police, and not using local funds to pursue abortion-related investigations.”
The Dallas City Council will consider a resolution of its own this month that would also make investigating abortions a low priority, D Magazine reported. The city council’s Quality of Life, Arts, and Culture committee will consider whether to advance the measure on Tuesday during a special-called meeting.
The policies in the resolutions don’t apply “in cases where coercion or force is used against the pregnant person, or in cases involving conduct criminally negligent to the health of the pregnant person seeking care.”
The actions San Antonio and Dallas will consider come after the City of Austin passed its own resolution last month. Local police in Austin are not required to follow the resolution's protocols, but before the measure was passed the Austin Police Department and Travis County District Attorney José Garza said through spokespersons that they would follow the guidelines in the resolution, KUT reported.
Though the resolutions are crafted to avoid running afoul of state law, not all local leaders have been convinced.
Last month El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser cast the tie-breaking vote when that city council debated its own resolution. If passed, it would have recommended the El Paso Police Department deprioritize investigations into abortion. After his vote, Leeser said the council needed to abide by state and federal laws, according to reports.
The local pushback against Texas’ anti-abortion legislation comes after several district attorneys have already said they won’t prosecute people for having or performing an abortion. That led a group of Texas Republicans to say they will introduce legislation permitting prosecutors in the state to investigate abortions outside their jurisdictions, NPR reported.
KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.
Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at email@example.com.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.
Copyright 2022 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.