Abortion has been declared illegal in Texas since June 24, 2022, when the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in Dobbs v. Jackson overturned the court’s previous decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. This has caused Texas abortion providers like Whole Woman’s Health to relocate their abortion operations to other states like New Mexico. And while abortion providers are leaving, abortion assistance groups like the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity and the Texas Equal Access Fund are doing everything they can to help pregnant Texas mothers get into other states for the purpose of an elective abortion.

This summer the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative has traveled throughout Texas to educate residents on the dangers of these groups and to promote ordinances seeking to put an end to abortion trafficking in cities and counties across the state. Since June 2019, the movement has seen a total of 67 cities and 3 counties pass ordinances keeping abortion out of communities in seven different states: Texas, Nebraska, Ohio, Louisiana, Iowa, New Mexico, and Illinois. Out of all the ordinances, the ones which are most aggressive are found in Texas – where many of the ordinances prohibit abortions performed on residents under their jurisdiction regardless of where those abortions take place. The new wave of the Texas ordinances also addresses abortion trafficking head-on, attempting to bring an end, once and for all, to the abortion clinics that are using abortion as an answer to unwanted pregnancies in the midst of sex trafficking. 

The Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative had interest meetings focusing on the cities of Amarillo (pop. 201,234), Victoria (pop. 67,670), Bulverde (pop. 5,996), Llano (pop. 3,537), Emory (pop. 1,600), and Spring Branch (pop. 220), as well as the counties of Ellis County (pop. 202,678), Eastland County (pop. 17,864), and Mitchell County (pop. 9,070). 

Mark Lee Dickson speaks at a Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Interest Meeting held at a church in Amarillo, Texas on Thursday, July 13.

Less than a week from the scheduled interest meeting educating the public about the Mitchell County ordinance, the Mitchell County Commissioners Court unanimously passed the measure in a 4-0 vote. The vote made Mitchell County the first in Texas to pass a “Sanctuary County for the Unborn” Ordinance and the third county to do so in the United States. 

In addition to prohibiting the performing of an abortion and the aiding or abetting of elective abortions within the unincorporated area of Mitchell County, the Mitchell County ordinance also prohibits the performing of an abortion and the aiding or abetting of elective abortions on residents of the unincorporated area of Mitchell County “regardless of the location of the abortion, regardless of the law in the jurisdiction where the abortion occurred, and regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the abortion was performed or induced on a resident of the unincorporated area of Mitchell County.” 

The ordinance also prohibits the manufacturing or distribution of abortion-inducing drugs within the unincorporated area of Mitchell County and prohibits abortion trafficking by making it unlawful “for any person to knowingly transport any individual for the purpose of providing or obtaining an elective abortion, regardless of where the elective abortion will occur.”

 Mitchell County, Texas Courthouse. On Friday, July 14, Mitchell County became the first “Sanctuary County for the Unborn” in the State of Texas by passing an ordinance outlawing abortion and abortion trafficking within their city limits.

The abortion trafficking provision only applies if the transportation of such an individual “begins, ends, or passes through the unincorporated area of Mitchell County” and makes it illegal for anyone to use the sections of Interstate 20, Hwy 84, and all other roads found in the unincorporated area of Mitchell County for the purpose of abortion trafficking. Due to the passage of the ordinance, those who live within Mitchell County are no longer allowed to drive pregnant mothers out of Mitchell County for the purpose of obtaining an elective abortion in another state – as such actions would be considered abortion trafficking. Due to this provision, those who are transporting pregnant women from other parts of Texas for the purpose of obtaining an elective abortion in another state are no longer allowed to pass through Mitchell County on their journey – as those actions would also be considered abortion trafficking.

Like the Texas Heartbeat Act, the ordinance is enforced by the creation of a private right of action, which allows for any person (except for Mitchell County or their employees) to bring a civil action against any person or entity that violates or intends to violate the ordinance. And, like all Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinances, the Mitchell County Ordinance does not allow for any lawsuit to be filed against the mother of the unborn child but only allows for actions to be taken against those who are assisting her in the killing of her child — when they cross the unincorporated area of Mitchell County.

Under Mitchell County’s Ordinance, if a father of an unborn child witnessed his unborn child’s mother being picked up in Mitchell County to be taken to another state for an abortion, he could be able to sue the one who picked up the mother for the illegal purpose as well as the abortion trafficking organization that paid for the mother’s travel expenses outside the state. 

Mike Seibel, an attorney from Albuquerque, New Mexico, told Live Action News, “We’ve seen a massive influx of Texas people, almost 80-90% of all the cars I see outside clinics in New Mexico are from Texas.” As a response to the influx, Seibel encouraged Texans to “pass local and state laws prohibiting the funding for travel for abortions being performed out of state on their residents.” 

After the ordinance passed Commissioner Jeremy Strain shared,

“What a monumental day for Mitchell County. I’m so excited that we get to lead the way for the state of Texas. We stand and fight for the unborn, the ones who can’t fight for themselves. I hope and pray other counties throughout the state will jump on board and lead by doing the same.”

During the 87th Legislative Session, the State of Texas explicitly allowed political subdivisions to outlaw and prohibit abortion and to establish penalties and remedies against those who perform or enable unlawful abortions. Texas Government Code § 311.036(b), reads,

“A statute may not be construed to restrict a political subdivision from regulating or prohibiting abortion in a manner that is at least as stringent as the laws of this state unless the statute explicitly states that political subdivisions are prohibited from regulating or prohibiting abortion in the manner described by the statute.”

This statute was written for the purpose of allowing cities and counties to pass ordinances restricting abortion within their jurisdiction. 

State Representative Dustin Burrows shared, “I am proud that Mitchell County is the first county to declare itself a sanctuary for the unborn. This is a huge victory for the pro-life movement in Texas.” Burrows continued, “Thank you to all of the grassroots advocates who worked tirelessly to make this a reality, and for the commissioners who showed political courage to vote this into law.”

The iconic “fishing bobber” water tower in Emory, Texas — a city located between Lake Fork and Lake Tawakoni. A Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Interest Meeting was held in Emory on Thursday, July 20.

More interest meetings are being planned for the Texas cities of Chandler (pop. 3,400), Mount Vernon (pop. 2,769), and Goliad (pop. 2,037), as well as the Texas counties of Lubbock County (pop. 314,451) Rains County (pop. 12,509), and Franklin County (pop. 10,464). Texas Residents who are interested in seeing their city or county pass an ordinance outlawing abortion trafficking are encouraged to sign the online petition at the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative website. Non-Texas residents who wish to see their cities and counties outlaw abortion are also encouraged to sign the same online petition. Sanctuary for the Unborn efforts are currently underway in several states including Arizona, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Virginia.

All photos are used courtesy of Mark Dickson. Theover photo shows residents of Bulverde/Spring Branch, TX listening to pro-life testimonies at a Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Interest Meeting in Spring Branch/Bulverde, Texas, hosted by San Antonio Family Association in coordination with the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative. The meeting took place on Saturday, July 15.

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Mark Lee Dickson lives in Texas and serves as a Director with Right to Life of East Texas and the founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative.

The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.