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Austin City Council sets meeting to talk abortion decriminalization after Roe v. Wade struck down

(Council Member Chito Vela/Twitter)

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion, Friday morning. Moments later, Austin City Council set a special meeting for next month to pass a resolution aimed at decriminalizing abortion.

The GRACE Act, which stands for guarding the right to abortion care for everyone, is a twofold plan submitted by council member Jose “Chito” Vela. It recommends that city funds shouldn’t be used to surveil, catalog, report or investigate abortions. It also recommends that police make investigating abortion their lowest priority.

Council Member Vanessa Fuentes, who co-sponsored the resolution along with council members Paige Ellis, Kathie Tovo and Mayor Steve Adler, said the importance of the GRACE Act cannot be overstated.

“By introducing this resolution during a special session, City Council is doubling down on fighting back for reproductive health,” Fuentes said. “Items like the GRACE Act will promote essential healthcare while enabling individuals to exercise their bodily freedom.”

The act takes an approach similar to when former council member Greg Casar moved to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Ultimately, state law doesn't allow city officials to order police chiefs to adopt specific enforcement policies so the resolution would be a request to Police Chief Joe Chacon. In May, Politico reported that Vela is having "ongoing conversations" with Chacon about the proposal.

Austonia contacted Attorney General Ken Paxton for comment on the GRACE Act but did not hear back by time of publication. On Friday, Paxton celebrated the overturning of Roe and announced an annual office holiday on June 24 in recognition of the high court's decision.

In a press release, Vela said the Texas state government has a history of overturning municipal protections of human rights. Thirty days after the Supreme Court’s ruling, Texas will ban all abortions, with exceptions only to save the life of a pregnant patient or prevent “substantial impairment of major bodily function.”

Still, Vela expressed hope for the GRACE Act’s longevity. Council’s special meeting on it is set for the week of July 18.

“We know this resolution is legally sound, and Austin is not alone in this fight,” Vela said. “We are working with several other cities who are equally horrified by the prospect of an abortion ban and want to do everything they can to protect their residents.”


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