The battle over access to abortion services is heating up in East Texas.
A reproductive equality group that works toward providing women with equal access to abortion has erected two billboards in response to the Waskom City Council’s recent decision to ban abortion and declare the town a “sanctuary city for the unborn.”
The Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity says it has put up the billboards that read “Abortion is Freedom” along Interstate 20 near Waskom to let city leaders there know that abortion is still legal in Waskom and throughout the country.
A post on the organization’s Facebook called the move by Waskom’s council a publicity stunt that was intended to intimidate organizations such as the Lilith Fund.
“They tried us, but we’re clapping back,” the post read in part.
The Lilith Fund, which has an Austin address, states on its website that it provides financial assistance for women seeking to terminate an unwanted pregnancy and education and outreach within the community about reproductive rights.
The Lilith Fund said it teamed with NARAL Pro-Choice Texas to put up the billboards. NARAL Pro-Choice, also an Austin organization, states on its website that it seeks to use the political process to “guarantee every Texan the right to make personal reproductive health decisions and to guarantee access to the full range of options, including preventing unintended pregnancy, bearing healthy children and accessing legal abortion.”
The all-male Waskom City Council on June 11 unanimously voted in favor of an ordinance that claims to outlaw abortion in the Waskom city limits, which would violate the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision. Council members also voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to make the city a “sanctuary city for the unborn.”
Waskom Mayor Jesse Moore said soon after the vote that the council was happy to support Right to Life of East Texas in the historic move by adopting a resolution and an ordinance.
“Right to Life approached us because the abortion laws are changing in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi (and) the abortion clinics may start moving to Texas,” Moore said. “With Waskom being the first city, 18 miles (west) from (Shreveport) Louisiana, they were anticipating one moving over here.
“The citizens in Waskom, they don’t want to have an abortion clinic in Waskom, so they presented the board last night with an ordinance and resolution that will make abortions in the city of Waskom a criminal offense,” the mayor said the day after the ordinance and resolution were passed.
He admitted the action wouldn’t stop abortion clinics from moving to Waskom, “but if they do, they’ll be breaking the law.”
Right to Life of East Texas Director Mark Lee Dickson said days after the vote in Waskom that his group had been approached by other area cities he said wanted to make abortion illegal within their jurisdictions, but he would not name the cities.
Dickson, who also is pastor of SovereignLove Church in Longview, on Tuesday disputed the claim in the billboard that abortion is freedom, saying, “Abortion isn’t freedom, of course.”
He said it is the same as saying “that a wife killing her husband is freedom.”
Referring to the Lilith Fund billboards, he said, “People have the freedom to put up whatever they want. It does not mean it is right. Somebody could put up a billboard that says killing is cool. It does not make it not illegal.”
He said the fact the Lilith Fund placed the billboards shows “they were bugged” by what the Waskom City Council did.
Asked how his group will respond, Dickson said, “We are still working on that. There are some things we will be doing.”