A proposed citywide ban on abortion was again subject of heated public comments at Monday’s Carthage City Commission meeting — but city officials so far have not placed the ordinance on an agenda for a vote.
Supporters have started gathering petition signatures to force a vote, with organizers Monday saying the proposed ordinance had wide support from the community.
“Carthage has the opportunity to stand up and say ‘We do not want or accept abortion,’” Amy Blackwell, with East Texas Right to Life, said. “It doesn’t mean that we’re shaming people. It’s saying that Carthage, here, that we do value life, and the most valuable of all, I believe — the most pure — are the unborn.”
The proposed ordinance, among other things, seeks to outlaw abortion in Carthage. It would make it illegal to procure or perform an abortion and to “aid or abet” an abortion, including providing transportation, giving instructions, providing money and coercing someone to have an abortion.
Any proposed abortion ban for the City of Carthage would not be enforceable unless the Supreme Court overturns its decision on Roe v. Wade, because that law, and the later Casey v. Planned Parenthood decision, makes it unconstitutional to totally ban abortion.
Supporters of the anti-abortion ordinance are also trying to get the law passed in Gary. The Gary City Council will vote on the issue at their Thursday meeting, set for 6 p.m. at Gary City Hall, 2607 FM 999 in Gary. Gary officials had previously scheduled a vote on the ordinance in December, but pushed it to their January meeting because they didn’t have a quorum of members present in December to vote on it.
Carthage commissioners on Monday listened to several public comments for and against the proposed ordinance, including former Assistant District Attorney Katie Nielsen — who said Roe v. Wade was argued on junk science — and Kamyon Conner, executive director of the Texas Equal Access abortion fund — who called it an extreme measure that would infringe on the right to abortion, as well as freedom of association and freedom of speech for those organizations who advocate for abortion access.
“No matter what your personal views on abortion are, we should all respect that the decision is each person’s to make with their family and in accordance to their faith,” Conner said. “It is not our place to judge someone who decides to not become a parent. Government officials should focus on expanding care and not limiting care. We know that this ordinance is meant to confuse and shame folks into thinking abortion is not legal or accessible, but rest assured we will be here to support the people of Carthage in accessing abortion if they so choose.”
Nielsen called abortion a barbaric procedure. She also told commissioners she would be happy to break down the decision and show its legal faults at their next meeting.
“If Roe v. Wade were were in front of the Supreme Court today just going on the legalities of it and the science behind it, it couldn’t pass today,” she said. “It’s one of the worst-written opinions ever.”
Nicole Tarpley, the Panola County GOP Chair, encouraged commissioners to pass the ordinance, noting Panola County overall was a heavily-Republican area. Tarpley said she’s heard a lot of support for the ordinance in talking to residents.
“I ask that you stand up for life and respect the constituents that are Republican, the majority, in Carthage, Texas,” she said.
Jessica Hale, who spoke at the December meeting against the ordinance, returned Monday and reminded commissioners that banning abortion was unconstitutional. She noted the ACLU has already threatened legal action against cities who have adopted the ordinance.
“Is Carthage financially capable of taking on a national issue?” she said. “No matter the way we view it, abortion is normal and common. This ban does not stop abortions in any way, even more so because there’s no abortion center planning on settling in Carthage. All this ban will do is confuse individuals regarding their rights and their decisions they are allowed to make for their own financial future and physical and emotional well-being.”