Photo by Facebook Live. District Attorney José Garza speaks at a press conference Monday.
Abortion access resolution gathering steam
Tuesday, June 28, 2022 by Jo Clifton
City Council Member Chito Vela, the lead sponsor of a resolution discouraging Austin police from investigating allegations concerning abortion, said Monday he expects City Council to consider the resolution at a special meeting held the week of July 18. In addition to Vela, sponsors of the resolution so far include Mayor Steve Adler and Council members Vanessa Fuentes, Paige Ellis, Leslie Pool, Ann Kitchen, and Kathie Tovo. The planned action is in direct response to Dobbs v. Jackson, the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision protecting a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion.
Vela’s resolution is known as the GRACE Act, or Guarding the Right to Abortion Care for Everyone. It states that it is the policy of the city, except as required by state or federal law, not to use city funds “to store or catalog any report of an abortion, miscarriage or other reproductive health care act.” The resolution also discourages police from providing information to any other governmental body related to any abortion or other reproductive health care activities. None of that would apply in cases “where coercion or force is used” against the individual who is pregnant.
Denton may well be the first city in Texas to pass a resolution opposing the state’s intention to enforce criminal laws against abortion. Denton’s Council is scheduled to meet tonight and will consider a resolution including some of the same language proposed in the GRACE Act. Both resolutions state that the city “formally condemns any action intended to abrogate the fundamental liberties of its people and affirms its commitment to protecting people’s right to make reproductive health care decisions for themselves.”
Vela said he had not discussed the matter with Police Chief Joseph Chacon. “I don’t think they’re eager” to pursue abortion providers or those helping women get abortions “given the personnel issues,” he said. He felt that the police were particularly unlikely to pursue reproductive matters, especially since Travis County District Attorney José Garza has said he will not prosecute such allegations.
In a news release following the repeal of Roe v. Wade, Garza said, “Threatening women who seek abortion services and their medical providers with prosecution will only drive women to seek out dangerous alternatives and avoid necessary medical care, which will lead to higher rates of preventable maternal death.”
Under Texas law, abortion could become illegal 30 days after the court issues its judgment. There are no exceptions for rape or incest, and narrow exceptions to save the life of the mother. However, Attorney General Ken Paxton has stated that abortion is now illegal in Texas because of a pre-Roe law. Abortion services throughout the state shut down Friday in response. Several abortion providers filed suit Monday challenging Paxton’s interpretation of the law.
Garza held a press conference Monday outlining his opposition to criminal prosecutions related to abortion. Appearing alongside Garza were two of his assistants, Erin Martinson, an attorney who leads the DA’s special victims unit, and Neva Fernandez of the victim services division. They described the trauma sexual assault survivors go through, with Martinson relating how she had discovered her mother had been sexually assaulted and then forced to carry the child of her rapist.
Fernandez gave an example of a 10-year-old girl who became pregnant by her rapist. The DA’s office was successful in prosecuting the perpetrator and assisted the girl in getting an abortion. That would not be possible under the new law.
Of course, no matter what the city or the district attorney does, anti-abortion activists will still be able to pursue those they believe are violating the law.
Vela’s resolution concludes with a statement that the city manager shall provide a report to Council at its July 26 work session. The city public information office declined to comment on the resolution, but provided the following statement after a previous request: “The city is prepared to take the steps necessary to implement this resolution upon passage by City Council.”
The Texas Attorney General’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.
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