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Austin City Council moves to de-prioritize prosecuting abortions

(Council Member Chito Vela/Twitter)

Austin City Council unanimously approved resolutions to decriminalize abortion within city limits during a special meeting Thursday.


It comes almost a month after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion. Council Member Mackenzie Kelly was absent.

Following the passage of the “Guarding the Right to Abortion Care for Everyone,” or GRACE Act, Council Member Jose “Chito” Vela celebrated the move on the plan he’d pushed forward along with co-sponsor Vanessa Fuentes.

“Nobody in Austin will be persecuted for their choices by the city,” Vela tweeted.

It may lower concerns among healthcare providers who have faced a chilling effect under Texas’ abortion laws and for those who seek abortion-inducing medication, reporting by the Texas Tribune notes. However, clinics could face state licensure and other consequences for providing abortions, pushing them to comply with Texas’ abortion ban.

The resolutions call for the following:

  • Amend city code to prohibit discrimination based on reproductive health decisions, making so someone cannot be fired, evicted, denied housing or denied a job for getting an abortion.
  • Prevent city funding from being used to catalog reports of abortion, miscarriage or other healthcare acts.
  • The city manager is directed to explore the ability to conduct a public education program about long-term birth control with the help of local health partners.
  • The city manager is directed to address the feasibility of helping city employees with travel expenses and other benefits to access abortions and other reproductive services not available in state.

Asking police to treat abortion as the lowest priority for investigations is a recommendation by the city council, as the department cannot be ordered by council to adopt it. The Austin Police Department has not yet issued a statement in response to council’s vote.

Other Texas cities have followed Austin’s example, with Denton and Waco city councils considering their own acts.

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