Amarillo citizens begin sanctuary city for the unborn petition

The Amarillo Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance Initiating Committee has started a petition to make Amarillo a “sanctuary city for the unborn,” effectively outlawing abortion and adding other restrictions.

According to the city charter, for the petition to move forward, it must get signatures from 5% of the registered voters in Amarillo within 120 days of this petition filing. So, with this initiative, more than 5,500 handwritten signatures must be received by the city secretary by late April. 

If the needed number of signatures are certified by the city, then the council must either vote on the ordinance or possibly have it placed on the ballot for the next election. The deadline to get a ballot issue for the next election is Feb. 16, so it would be placed on the November ballot in 2024. 

The 11 initiating committee members who signed the petition were Jana May, Cindy Price, Peggy Carter Thomas, Jacob A. Meyer, John Barrett, Steve Austin, Jennifer Roberts, Martha Sell, Alex Deanda, Connie Morgan, and Carol Ann Stewart. 

Mark Dickson, with Right to Life of East Texas and founder of Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn, wants to get 10,000 before taking it to the council.

“Those signatures will be turned in to the city clerk and as long as we have enough, then that ordinance will go before the mayor and city council, and they’ll have the ability to accept or reject that ordinance,” Dickson said “And if that ordinance is rejected, then at that point, it will go have the opportunity to go on the ballot for the next available election.”

The sanctuary city ordinance being propsed with this petition would prohibit abortion within the city limits of Amarillo as well as abortion trafficking — the transportation of persons to get an abortion on the roads through Amarillo — and has a private enforcement mechanism similar to the one in the state’s Heartbeat Act. Similar ordinances have been passed in 50 cities and several counties in Texas.

Mayor Cole Stanley weighed in on the proposed petition.

“In unison, I feel that all we are still trying to do is to put forward a measure that protects life,” Stanley said. “Where the big rift is in this conversation is what the state of Texas has already done that makes these things unlawful. When you look at Health and Safety Code 171, it already states aiding and abetting and provides for a civil right of action. The real question I have for Jonathan Mitchell, who I am waiting to hear more from, is what this ordinance would do, if anything, that is not already done in state law.”

A former solicitor general for the state of Texas, Mitchell is seen as the architect for the enforcement mechanism of Texas abortion law, which is already one of the strictest in the nation.  

“I have multiple attorneys that we have sought counsel with to get feedback on the proposed ordinance's reach and legality,” Stanley said. “The state laws are just layers of statutes, codes, amendments, acts and bills. So, when you have to dig into all that as a city council, we must look at what is already covered in state law.” 

Stanley said that the petition will change how the city council moves forward on any proposed abortion ordinance. 

“I do not think you will see us move forward on this ordinance until we get additional education on the petition process, and two, what is the petition or potential amendment going to look like?” Stanley added.

The Amarillo City Council recently held a special work session to discuss the possible ordinance but did not vote on the measure, which would have them become a "sanctuary city for the unborn" and join with the 50 cities and four counties in Texas that have pursued similar measures.

Amarillo leaders also considered a measure to deal with chemical abortion pills.

Several other Texas cities have passed ordinances related to "abortion trafficking," including Lubbock, to discourage women from traveling to seek abortions in neighboring states that do not limit the procedure as Texas does.

“Whatever we come back with, it needs to protect life, so if it doesn’t, then maybe we’ve done enough,” Stanley said. “But the right measure of enough is what we’re trying to get to. Nobody’s in here saying how they’ll vote, but I would greatly appreciate and much more entertain something that’s limited.”

However, council members disagreed on the scope of the travel restrictions, and Stanley said a final version is unlikely to include a ban but rather a "private right of action that allows for a civil suit."

Other proposed ordinances on the use of the chemical abortion pill mifepristone and the disposal of human remains earned more complete support among the members of the council.

“I’m trying to prevent that 14-year-old girl from having that drug in her possession when she didn’t see a physician and it wasn’t prescribed to her," Stanley said. "And she’s attempting to end a pregnancy by herself with all of the trauma and the risk involved and nobody there by her side."

Texas put a near-total restriction on abortion in place after Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court last year. Amarillo is a city in northwest Texas that is likely to see abortion tourism traffic for abortion seekers traveling through it to permissive neighbors like New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas.

Some of the Texas ordinances are localized versions of what Idaho has implemented, with the latter barring its residents from crossing state lines to obtain an abortion. That law is controversial because it calls into question the constitutional right to interstate travel. A judge temporarily blocked it earlier this year while litigation takes place.

Amarillo's potential ordinance, and the similar moves from other cities in the state, come as Texas woman Kate Cox made headlines suing the state to obtain an abortion, although she was ultimately denied by the Texas Supreme Court after failing to meet criteria to get an exception from the state law.

Cox ultimately went to a different state to obtain the abortion.

The city is also the source for the most recent abortion case granted certiorari at the U.S. Supreme Court, dealing with the Food and Drug Administration's approval of mifepristone.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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