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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.

The Value of Prohibiting Abortion Trafficking in Texas Cities and Counties

Mark Lee Dickson

Founder

Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative  |  07 December 2023

On September 28, 2023, the Texas Commissioners’ Court of Cochran County voted unanimously to pass an ordinance outlawing abortion trafficking in the unincorporated area of their county.[1] The vote made the county the fifth political subdivision in the state to pass an ordinance outlawing abortion trafficking, following the City of Odessa,[2] the City of Little River-Academy,[3] Mitchell County,[4] and Goliad County.[5]

 

The Cochran County Sanctuary County for the Unborn ordinance states, “it shall be 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. This section shall apply only if the transportation of such individual begins, ends, or passes through the unincorporated area of Cochran County.”

 

While no one spoke in opposition to the measure at the commission meeting, the Judge mentioned that a group out of Dallas named Christians for Reproductive Justice had left a message recommending against the passage of the prohibition on abortion trafficking. Former Texas Senator Wendy Davis, who now serves as an advisor with Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, also spoke out publicly against Cochran County passing the measure. Davis said, “You may believe this isn’t going to affect you because it’s in some tiny little town you’re never going to drive through… This is an effort, one by one, to create a statewide ban against travel to other states, literally creating a reproductive prison in the state of Texas.”[6]

 

Like the previous abortion trafficking ordinances, the Cochran County Ordinance does not interfere with the right to travel, nor does the ordinance require any type of enforcement on behalf of Cochran County. The ordinance only imposes penalties on those who are using roads within the county to traffic pregnant mothers across state lines for the purpose of an abortion. The abortion trafficking provision of the Cochran County Ordinance tracks the current wording of the Mann Act of 1910[7] almost verbatim, with the exception that the ordinance embraces a broader definition of the prohibited purposes. The prohibited purposes in the Cochran County Ordinance includes abortion trafficking. Abortion trafficking would have fallen within the erstwhile “immoral purpose” definition of the Mann Act. Since all previous iterations of the Mann Act were upheld as constitutional, it is believed that the abortion trafficking provision should survive any court challenge regarding its constitutionality.

 

On October 23, 2023, the Texas Commissioners’ Court of Lubbock County followed Cochran County, becoming the sixth political subdivision in the state to pass a prohibition on abortion trafficking.[8] Like the Cochran County Ordinance, the Lubbock County Ordinance is not enforced by the county, but through the creation of a private right of action that allows citizens to sue anyone who violates the ordinance. This means that there will be no traffic stops or arrests as a result of the passage of this ordinance. The enforcement mechanism is the same private enforcement mechanism found in the City of Lubbock’s Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance passed in May 2021[9] and the Texas Heartbeat Act that was signed into law the same month.[10] It is believed that, since this mechanism worked in shutting down abortion in the City of Lubbock and worked in shutting down abortions performed on children with detectable heartbeats in the State of Texas, it will also work in prohibiting abortion trafficking in cities and counties throughout Texas. While representatives from Planned Parenthood were present to speak in opposition to the ordinance in Lubbock County, most of the pushback came from Republican County Judge Curtis Parrish and Democrat Commissioner Gilbert Flores.

 

In August 2023, twenty Texas Senators and Representatives signed a letter encouraging cities and counties across Texas to consider these types of “abortion trafficking” ordinances. The letter stated:

 

While it is true that abortion is outlawed in the entire State of Texas, from the point of conception, our work is far from over. Right now, throughout the State of Texas, women are being trafficked across our borders by abortion traffickers funded by abortion trafficking organizations still operating in our state. As a result, these women are being abused and traumatized by abortion across our Texas-New Mexico border and sent back to Texas for our cities and counties to deal with the aftermath taking place in our homes, our schools, our churches, and our hospitals.

 

The Sanctuary for the Unborn ordinances seek to protect these institutions by putting safeguards in place to protect men, women, and their children for years to come. These ordinances, which seek to close as many loopholes as possible, do not penalize women who seek or undergo abortions, but places the penalty on the party who most deserves it — the abortionist and the industry profiting from the unjust procedure, including abortion traffickers.

 

While we intend to do our part to keep our strong pro-life protections for mothers and their unborn children, we believe it will help for cities and counties to do their part as well. As state elected officials who are trusted by Pro-Life Texans to stand for life at every available opportunity, we believe this is a viable and crucial opportunity for local governments to protect their most vulnerable members. We look forward to partnering with you as we seek to defend innocent human life at every level of government.

 

Texas Senators and Representatives who signed the letter included: Senators Charles Perry (SD 28), Mayes Middleton (SD 11), Bryan Hughes (SD 1), Tan Parker (SD 12), Donna Campbell (SD 25), Lois W. Kolkhorst (SD 18), and Representatives Dustin Burrows (HD 83), Carl Tepper (HD 84), Jeff Leach (HD 67), Jared Patterson (HD 106), Briscoe Cain (HD 128), Greg Bonnen (HD 24), James Frank (HD 69), Cole Heffner (HD 5), Stephanie Klick (HD 91), Ellen Troxclair (HD 19), Geanie W. Morrison (HD 30), Mark Dorazio (HD 122), Matt Schaefer (HD 6), and Carrie Isaac (HD 73).

 

Texas legislators were not the only state legislators in support of the measures. In October 2023, seven New Mexico Senators and Representatives signed a letter encouraging cities and counties across Texas to consider these types of “abortion trafficking” ordinances as well. The letter they signed stated:

 

Since September 2021, when the Texas Heartbeat Act went into effect, we have seen over 1,000 abortions per month come into the State of New Mexico from the State of Texas. Not only has this influx of abortions caused the deaths of many innocent Texans, but it is putting an extreme burden on our limited healthcare system in New Mexico. This may lead to a significant health crisis in the State of New Mexico if reasonable measures are not passed on abortion trafficking within the State of Texas, as our health system cannot handle the significant number of emergencies that are the result of the influx of approximately 11,000 Texas abortions per year. As state legislators we stand concerned about the impact this has on the health, safety, and enjoyment of life of the residents of New Mexico and those who are visiting from the state of Texas.

 

While the ordinances passed in our cities and counties in New Mexico are different from the ordinances which have been passed in cities and counties throughout Texas, our communities are seeking to do as much as they possibly can to protect our communities under the leadership and the laws of the State of New Mexico. We are doing this despite facing overwhelming opposition from state leaders who are in lock-step with the most pro-abortion administration in the history of America. Of course, we cannot fight the Biden Administration's radical abortion agenda alone.

 

This is why it is a great encouragement to us that allies across the New Mexico-Texas border are considering proposals which would prohibit abortion trafficking into New Mexico. While we will never stop fighting for unborn life on our turf in New Mexico, the victory is made more achievable when cities and counties in Texas are doing their part to defend innocent human life as well.

 

New Mexico Senators and Representatives who signed the letter included: Senators David Gallegos (SD 41), Pat Woods (SD 7), Greg Schmedes, M.D. (SD 19), and Representatives John Block (HD 51), Andrea Reeb (HD 64), James Townsend HD 54), and Jennifer Jones (HD 32).

 

Counties of special interest to the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative are counties which are on or close to the the Texas-New Mexico border, including: Loving County, Winkler County, Ector County, Andrews County, Gaines County, Yoakum County, Bailey County, Lamb County, Parmer County, Castro County, Deaf Smith County, Oldham County, Hartley County, and Dallam County. The idea behind the passage of the ordinances near the border is to create a wall of ordinances which will serve as a deterrent to abortion facilities that seek to set-up shop across the Texas-New Mexico border.

 

Some of the most crucial areas along the Texas-New Mexico border include Andrews County and Gaines County - near Hobbs, New Mexico, and Bailey County and Parmer County - near Clovis, New Mexico. The New Mexico cities of Hobbs and Clovis were both targeted by abortion industries attempting to make a profit on Texas residents seeking abortion right across the Texas-New Mexico border.

 

In October 2022, Whole Woman’s Health founder and CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said, “Anti-abortion forces, now that they don’t need to pay attention to Texas and Mississippi and Alabama and Louisiana anymore, they’re starting to focus on what I call the ‘new frontier.” While Miller told Reuters she was considering opening a facility in Clovis or Hobbs, she also expressed how the possibility of “sanctuary” ordinances were causing her to pause about relocating to Eastern New Mexico. Miller shared, “In this post-Dobbs era, where anti-abortion folks are emboldened, I want to be sure we’re in a place where our patients can be safe, where our doctors and our staff can be safe.”[11] After both Hobbs and Clovis introduced ordinances requiring compliance to federal abortion laws found in the Comstock Act, Whole Woman’s Health opted to abandon their pursuit of Southeast New Mexico and make Albuquerque, New Mexico, their new home.

 

The New Mexico Attorney General is currently challenging the Comstock ordinances passed in four of six jurisdictions in New Mexico with oral arguments expected to be heard by the New Mexico Supreme Court in mid-December. This quickly approaching hearing and eventual ruling of New Mexico’s Supreme Court has made the introduction of ordinances prohibiting abortion trafficking in counties in Texas, along the New Mexico border, all the more urgent, since an unfavorable ruling in New Mexico would likely prompt the establishment of abortion facilities just miles from the Texas border.

 

While some elected officials along the border are skeptical of passing abortion trafficking ordinances, believing they will not make a difference, abortionist Alan Braid with Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has seen the impact abortion trafficking bans can have on the abortion industry. Previously located in San Antonio, Texas, Braid moved to New Mexico after the Dobbs decision on June 24, 2022. Braid admitted that 85 percent of his business came from Texas, with some even driving from Houston. Braid said that because of the new abortion trafficking bans, clinics in New Mexico are “having higher no-show rates because people are afraid to drive through Lubbock and Amarillo.”[12]

___________________

[1] Kim Roberts, “County on Texas-New Mexico Border Outlaws Abortion and Abortion Trafficking,” The Texan, September 9, 2023,

https://thetexan.news/issues/social-issues-life-family/county-on-texas-new-mexico-border-outlaws-abortion-and-abortion-trafficking/article_9c2d3176-5eea-11ee-92c0-6bd0a4397a53.html (accessed on December 7, 2023).

[2] Matt Stringer, “Odessa City Council Fires Manager and Attorney, Passes Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance,” The Texan, December 15, 2022, https://thetexan.news/issues/social-issues-life-family/odessa-city-council-fires-manager-and-attorney-passes-sanctuary-city-for-the-unborn-ordinance/article_465b2138-f52f-5fae-92b1-34aa78b4a69d.html (accessed on December 7, 2023).

[3] Kim Roberts, “Fifty Cities now ‘Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn’,” The Texan, January 17, 2023, https://thetexan.news/issues/social-issues-life-family/fifty-texas-cities-now-sanctuary-cities-for-the-unborn/article_2871e488-b7d5-5754-b114-66dd7e234d45.html (accessed on December 7, 2023.) 

[4] Cameron Abrams, “Mitchell County Votes to Become Texas’ First ‘Sanctuary County for the Unborn’,” The Texan, July 14, 2023, https://thetexan.news/issues/social-issues-life-family/mitchell-county-votes-to-become-texas-first-sanctuary-county-for-the-unborn/article_da62dc4c-9e25-5516-8b7f-ebf0489fb585.html (accessed on December 7, 2023).

[5] Kim Roberts, “Historic Texas County Outlaws Abortion and Abortion Trafficking,” The Texan, August 31, 2023. https://thetexan.news/issues/social-issues-life-family/historic-texas-county-bans-abortions-and-abortion-trafficking/article_b5b2b0ac-482a-11ee-8688-77295c2d8464.html (accessed December 7, 2023.)

[6] Jayme Lozano Carver, “A Texas county that borders New Mexico is the latest to consider an abortion travel ban,” The Texas Tribune, September 27, 2023. https://www.texastribune.org/2023/09/27/abortion-travel-ban-texas-new-mexico/ (accessed December 7, 2023).

[7] “Mann Act,” Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute, accessed December 7, 2023, https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/mann_act.

[8] Jayme Lozano Carver, “Lubbock County becomes latest to approve ‘abortion travel ban’ while Amarillo City Council balks,” The Texas Tribune, October 23, 2023, https://www.texastribune.org/2023/10/23/abortion-travel-ban-lubbock-county/ (accessed December 7, 2023).

[9] Shannon Najmabadi, “Lubbock votes to become the state’s largest ‘sanctuary city for the unborn’,” The Texas Tribune, May 1, 2021, https://www.texastribune.org/2021/05/01/lubbock-abortion-vote-sanctuary-unborn/ (accessed December 7, 2023).

[10] Shannon Najmabadi, “Gov. Greg Abbott signs into law one of nation’s strictest abortion measures, banning procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy,” The Texas Tribune, May 19, 2021, https://www.texastribune.org/2021/05/18/texas-heartbeat-bill-abortions-law/ (accessed December 7, 2023).

[11] Brad Brooks, “New frontline of U.S. abortion battles emerges in New Mexico,” Reuters, October 28, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/legal/new-frontline-us-abortion-battles-emerges-new-mexico-2022-10-26/ (accessed December 7, 2023).

[12] Kayla Padilla and David Martin Davies, “San Antonio abortion doctor who challenged SB8 treating Texans in New Mexico,” Texas Standard, November 7, 2023, https://www.texasstandard.org/stories/san-antonio-abortion-doctor-who-challenged-sb8-treating-texans-in-new-mexico/ (accessed December 7, 2023).

 

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