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Sebastian's Point

Sebastian's Point is a weekly column written by one of our members regarding timely events or analysis of relevant ideas, which impact the Culture of Life. All regular members are invited to submit a column for publication at soss.submissions@gmail.com. Columns should be between 800 to 1300 words and comply with the high standards expected in academic writing, including proper citations of authority or assertions referred to in your column. Please see, Submission Requirements for more details.

Citizens of San Antonio Prove Texans Want their Cities to Protect Life by Rejecting Pro-Abortion “Proposition A”

Mary Elizabeth Castle, J.D.

Texas Values

Director of Government Relations | 22 June 2023

After a summer of defiance of pro-life laws by a few cities in Texas last year, it was refreshing to see a unique shift in San Antonio in May. In the May election, San Antonians stood up for the life of the preborn when they overwhelmingly voted against “Proposition A” which would have put their GRACE Act city ordinance, which sought to make Texas pro-life laws unenforceable, into the city charter. Proposition A was placed on a ballot for the citizens to decide a number of issues and their adoption into San Antonio’s city charter, which is the official constitution of the city. However, “Proposition A” failed with 71 percent of San Antonio voters voting against it. Defeating the attempts to have language in the San Antonio charter that would make the decision to ignore Texas's pro-life stance permanent in local government is a huge victory for babies in the state of Texas. The defeat of “Proposition A” also gives hope that Texans want their cities to follow pro-life laws and be held accountable for their defiance.

 

Last summer, the San Antonio City Council joined a number of other Texas cities in adopting the GRACE Act that sought to “decriminalize” abortion after the Human Life Protection Act was enacted after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. However, San Antonio did not settle with the GRACE Act ordinance. Abortion advocates wanted to take things one step further by having the city charter include language that would decriminalize abortion. While having an ordinance that ignores the state laws on abortion is bad enough, having a city charter reinforcing this policy is worse as it creates permanency for the GRACE Act. A city charter is similar to a constitution at the state or national level. According to the San Antonio city website, the San Antonio city charter is the constitution of the City of San Antonio and state law allows for the San Antonio citizens to propose amendments that are supported by at least 20,000 signatures.[1] Earlier this year a group of advocacy groups representing a number of issues decided to follow the process of having their special interests, including abortion, represented in the San Antonio city charter. The advocates called their action plan, the Justice Policy. The Justice Policy was voted to be placed on the May 2023 ballot in a meeting held on February 16, 2023.[2]Usually, the city council votes to add proposed language to the city charter, but due to a few absences on the city council, the Justice Policy was one vote shy from automatically becoming a part of the San Antonio city charter.[3] The overall main objectives of the Justice Policy were focused on reducing police power and the Justice Policy advocates creatively argued that enforcing abortion laws are an improper use of police power.

 

The Justice Policy Petition lays out four reasons why San Antonio cannot enforce the state’s pro-life laws: 1) The city’s goal of promoting reproductive health, safety, and privacy of all City residents 2) The legal and practical complexity of evaluating claims that City residents may have violated state laws concerning the criminalization of abortion 3) The lack of training and capacity of City police to discern valid and enforceable complaints of unlawful abortion and  4) risk of liability arising from improper enforcement of criminal abortion laws.[4]

 

According to the Justice Policy, the ultimate solution for Texas pro-life laws being difficult to enforce is to have the city charter state that police officers should not investigate, arrest, or enforce pro-life law for any alleged abortion[5]. However, the Justice Policy provided two exceptions where police officers are permitted to investigate or make arrests: 1) when there is coercion or force used against a pregnant person or 2) in cases involving conduct criminally negligent to the health of the pregnant person seeking care. [6]  The remaining language to be placed in the charter included similar issues addressed in the GRACE Act including how San Antonio would refuse to use resources or collect information regarding abortions occurring in the city.[7]

 

Despite having similarities to the GRACE Act, the Justice Policy had different motives and different challenges. As stated, advocates for the Justice Policy wanted defiance of Texas pro-life laws to become a permanent policy in the city perhaps to avoid city council officials in the future from voting to overturn the GRACE Act. But having the language of the GRACE Act added to the city charter presents unique challenges because city charters cannot contain language that conflicts with state law. In a FAQ document posted in February, the San Antonio City Attorney explained that “if a charter amendment that contradicts state law is passed by the voters of San Antonio, the amendment cannot be enforced”.[8] The FAQ document stated that at least five of the Justice Policy proposals are unenforceable because they are governed by state law.[9]One section of the document poses the question, “Will abortion-related care be legal in San Antonio if the measure passes in the May City Election?”[10] The answer to the question provided in the document is simply “no”.[11]

 

Regardless of the reality of the abortion policy portion of the Justice Policy being unenforceable, speaking out against the abortion proposals and informing citizens of the Justice Policy placement on the ballot was still very important. Many pro-life groups in Texas campaigned to warn San Antonio voters that an abortion proposal would be on the ballot in the May city-wide election. One pro-life group, Texas Alliance for Life, even took the issue to the Texas Supreme Court in an attempt to prevent the abortion policy from being on the May ballot. But despite efforts to address possible flaws in the process, the Texas Supreme Court denied a writ of mandamus that would slow down the abortion policy ballot initiative.[12] One of the reasons behind the Texas Supreme Court decision to not stop the May election on the abortion policy in “Proposition A” was that courts typically do not enjoin elections.[13] Nevertheless, the key to defeating the pro-abortion Justice Policy was to energize pro-life San Antonians to get to the ballot box to vote for the pre-born.

 

Thankfully, pro-life San Antonians responded in a big way, defeating “Proposition A” with 71 percent of voters voting against the Justice Policy on May 6, 2023. Albeit, the “Proposition A” Justice Policy included a number of controversial topics that motivated voters to vote “no” in the election such as legalizing marijuana and establishing a lower tolerance for other crimes. Ultimately, the pro-life community can still take pride in the fact that victory was achieved by making citizens aware of their opportunity to reject policies that are contrary to our state’s pro-life laws.

 

The defeat of the pro-abortion Justice Policy was a success, but what does this mean for the other cities in Texas that decided to adopt policies that defy our state’s pro-life laws? It is unlikely other cities would consider proposing charter amendments that would be unenforceable due to their contradiction to state law. However, the possibility cannot be completely ruled out. As we observed in San Antonio, it could only take one more city councilman’s vote for a city council to automatically adopt charter amendments without listening to the voters first. Perhaps the most important lesson learned in San Antonio is that abortion-minded city councils in Texas are taking the pro-life views of its citizens for granted. On that note, it will be important for the Texas government to hold local governments accountable for abiding by state pro-life laws since it is truly what everyday people of Texas want and it is in the best interest of the community to protect the life of the pre-born.

 

______________________

[1]City of San Antonio City Charter,  https://www.sanantonio.gov/City-Attorney/City-Charter (last visited June 19, 2023)

[2] In re Maria Teresa Ramirez Morris, No. 230111, (March 17, 2023) (orig. proceeding) https://search.txcourts.gov/SearchMedia.aspx?MediaVersionID=c63ba4a2-17bf-4753-a495-8545959459eb&coa=cossup&DT=DISPOSITION&MediaID=fa4d5d76-92e2-4989-a9b6-0265512b3d14.

[3] In re Maria Teresa Ramirez Morris at 3. https://search.txcourts.gov/SearchMedia.aspx?MediaVersionID=c63ba4a2-17bf-4753-a495-8545959459eb&coa=cossup&DT=DISPOSITION&MediaID=fa4d5d76-92e2-4989-a9b6-0265512b3d14 .

[4] San Antonio Justice Charter, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ltbGlVeuw-ZvIGCWaPQf47WRp__UXJ9f/view (last visited June 19, 2023)

[5] Id at 4.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Office of City Attorney Justice Policy Petition Background FAQ document, https://www.sanantonio.gov/Portals/0/Files/Atty/Charter%20Petition%20Q%20and%20A%202.8.2023%20Final.pdf (last visited June 19, 2023)

[9] Id at 1.

[10] Id at 2.

[11] Id.

[12] In re Maria Teresa Ramirez Morris, No. 230111, (March 17, 2023) (orig. proceeding) https://search.txcourts.gov/SearchMedia.aspx?MediaVersionID=c63ba4a2-17bf-4753-a495-8545959459eb&coa=cossup&DT=DISPOSITION&MediaID=fa4d5d76-92e2-4989-a9b6-0265512b3d14.

[13] In re Maria Teresa Ramirez Morris at 5.

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