Proponents in a movement to make cities “sanctuaries for the unborn” by outlawing abortion took their case to the Carthage City Commission on Monday.
Supporters of an abortion ban told city officials they believe a potential shuttering of the Hope Medical Clinic in Shreveport — a question depending on how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in an upcoming case — means East Texas is a prime target for new abortion clinics.
“I am pleading with you guys today,” Right to Life East Texas Executive Director Mark Lee Dickson said. “This city is known as the birthplace of Mildred Jefferson, one of the greatest pro-life leaders this nation has ever known. The bust of her is in the city square. Our nation is indebted to Carthage, Texas. I ask you in the spirit of that great doctor to be just as courageous as she was and make a stand for life.”
A crowd filled the Carthage City Commission meeting room, and a handful of people stood outside the room because there was nowhere to sit inside. Both those for and those against the ordinance spoke during the meeting’s public comments time — but commissioners did not discuss the measure or take any action on it because it was not on that meeting’s posted agenda.
City Manager Steve Williams said City Attorney Collin Underwood had not reviewed the proposal and that they would bring him a copy. Commissioners declined after the meeting to comment on the proposal.
Previous rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court, including Roe v. Wade, hold that totally banning abortion is unconstitutional, although the state can impose restrictions on the practice.
Any proposed abortion ban for the City of Carthage would not be enforceable unless the Supreme Court overturns its decision on Roe v. Wade — something the proposed ordinance notes, with additional clauses calling for any part of ordinance deemed unconstitutional to be removed.
The proposed ordinance states:
- Abortion “at all times and at all stages of pregnancy” is murder
- Organizations that perform and help people get abortions are criminal organizations
- Supreme Court rulings that establish a constitutional right to abortion are “unconstitutional usurptions of judicial power” and would be declared null and void within city limits
The proposed ordinance 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. The ordinance provides an affirmative defense if the abortion was done because of a life-threatening situation.
The ordinance would also ban organizations who provide abortions or help people get abortions from operating within city limits and provide civil tort action for “any surviving relative of the aborted unborn child.”
Several other East Texas cities have passed the proposed anti-abortion ordinance, including Joaquin, Tenaha, Omaha and Naples.
Those speaking for the ordinance told city officials they did not want Carthage to be a place where a person could get an abortion.
“Our sign says that we’re the best small town in Texas,” Shane Iturbide said. “Well as this is introduced and in the coming weeks and months that the process is going, we have an opportunity to prove it.”
Two women speaking against the ordinance told commissioners that an abortion ban would not stop abortions, and they encouraged officials not to adopt the law. Such a law, they said, would only hurt people.
“Banning abortions won’t end abortions,” Jessica Hale said. “You’re only taking away the access that somebody has to the safe practice of it, because it doesn’t matter if you ban it. It’s going to happen.”