East Texas Town Does Its Thing, Declares Itself Sanctuary City for Fetuses

Demonstrators march in front of the Supreme Court in 2016.EXPAND
Demonstrators march in front of the Supreme Court in 2016.
Pat Benic/UPI/Newscom

This may come as a shock to those unfamiliar with East Texas, but the people there, especially those in many of its small towns, really, really don't like abortion — so much so that they're willing to make national spectacles of themselves just to show everyone how much they hate women exercising their bodily autonomy.

The most recent highlight from the land of Gohmert comes from five guys in the town of Waskom, located just 18 miles across the Louisiana border from Shreveport.

Earlier this week, the Waskom City Council voted unanimously to declare itself a "sanctuary city for the unborn" with an ordinance that also says that, at least as far as Waskom is concerned, abortion is an "act of murder" carried out by "criminal organizations" including Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the Afiya Center and the Lilith Fund. The ordinance does make an exception for cases in which the woman seeking an abortion was raped or if her life is in danger.

According to the City Council, every decision the U.S. Supreme Court has made guaranteeing the right to an abortion in the United States was incorrect. They are "unconstitutional usurpations of judicial power, which violate both the Tenth Amendment the Republican Form of Government Clause, and are declared to be null and void in the City of Waskom," according to the ordinance.

Mark Lee Dickson, the director of East Texas Right to Life, an organization that pushed the council to adopt the ordinance, said earlier this week that it's a necessary step to keep abortion clinics out of the town. Dickson fears that clinics might come to Waskom because of the new "heartbeat bill" recently signed into law by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

"In the early '90s, when the legislation in Louisiana became more and more restrictive, the founder of Hope Medical Group For Women said, 'If Louisiana is shut down, obviously it would make sense to move right over the line,'" Dickson wrote on Facebook. "This legislative session, in an attempt to protect innocent unborn lives, a Democrat Governor in Louisiana signed a Heartbeat Bill into law. The legislation on abortion in Louisiana is not getting less restrictive, but more restrictive.

"The fact that this has been considered before is reason enough for the citizens of Waskom, Texas to make every reasonable action in their power to make their small, vulnerable, innocent city safe from the possibility of one day being the Abortion Capital of the Ark-La-Tex. It obviously makes sense."

Dickson was a strong supporter of Arlington state Rep. Tony Tinderholt's House Bill 896 during the 2019 Texas Legislative session. Tinderholt's bill, had it become law, would have made any abortion performed for any reason a capital offense, punishable by the death penalty.

Ahead of the vote, Waskom officials acknowledged the potential legal ramifications of their vote.

“We don’t have the possible millions of dollars that it would take to take it to that level,” Alderman Jimmy Dale Moore said before voting for the ordinance, according to The Washington Post. “We can’t pay those kind of attorney’s fees. The city don’t have the money.”

In response to Waskom's action, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas executive director Aimee Arrambide emphasized that abortion is still legal in Texas, no matter the steps taken by a rogue city council.

"We will not be intimidated," Arrambide said. "At a time when the fundamental freedoms under (Roe v. Wade) are under attack, we recommit ourselves to expanding and protecting these rights for all Texans."

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