Local residents argue over abortion at city council meeting in San Angelo


UPDATE: This story has been updated with more information about a proposed regulation banning abortion.

SAN ANGELO – Local residents discussed during a city council meeting on Tuesday whether abortion should be banned in San Angelo and, if so, who should make that decision – the people or their elected officials.

A draft ordinance presented to the city council last month would “ban abortion within city limits, declare abortion murder and protect communities from abortion providers operating within the city’s jurisdiction,” according to documents submitted to the clerk’s office.

“There’s a fundamental wave here that wants to see this in San Angelo,” said Ryan Buck, senior pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church, 90 E. 14th St., to a crowd of anti-abortion activists Monday.

“It is very important to us that we get the city council to put this on their agenda in their regular business,” he said.

Not everyone agrees with Buck. In a speech to the city council on Tuesday, Anna Martine, who lives in San Angelo, spoke out against the regulation.

“You have heard from some citizens that all people from San Angelo want this ban. That’s not true, ”said Martine. “This so-called ‘Sanctuary City’ ban is an ironic regulation at best. It removes the safe haven and compassionate aid to those with unwanted, unhealthy, unsustainable, and forced pregnancies. “

Martine said the ordinance “does not allow exceptions in cases of rape, incest, forced insemination or extremely early pregnancy …”

“In fact, it prohibits Plan B, a drug that should definitely be prescribed at your doctor’s discretion,” Martine said.

However, proponents of the measure said the regulation does not prohibit regulations like Plan B.

“Abortion does not include contraceptives or oral contraceptives,” according to the draft regulation, which states that an act is not an abortion if the act is done with the intention of:

  • save the life or health of an unborn child;
  • remove a dead, unborn child whose death was caused by an accidental miscarriage; or
  • remove an ectopic pregnancy.

The term “abortion doctor” does not apply to pharmacists or pharmaceutical workers who sell birth control or oral contraceptives, the documents say.

Although there are currently no abortion clinics in San Angelo (as of Tuesday, September 21, 2021), the draft ordinance would allow family members of a person performing an abortion to sue the provider, and anyone who helps someone with an abortion, such as having an abortion them to a clinic.

Mayor of San Angelo: “Citizens should make regulations.”

During a September 9 meeting, city councilors agreed to put the ordinance on the ballot and allow voters in Tom Green County to choose whether or not to criminalize abortion.

“There are certainly citizens with strong opinions who want San Angelo to be a city of refuge,” said San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter. “I want to make sure that all citizens of San Angelo have the opportunity to vote on this issue.”

However, some anti-abortion opponents do not want the measure to be in the hands of local voters.

About three dozen people gathered in City Hall Square at 72 W. College Avenue on Monday, September 20, 2021, urging elected officials to make San Angelo a “haven for the unborn” by issuing an ordinance Adopt the criminalization of abortion.

Ryan Buck, senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, held a prayer in front of San Angelo City Hall Plaza, 72 W College Avenue.  Sanctuary City's anti-abortion advocates held a rally and press conference on Monday, September 20, 2021.

Mark Lee Dickson, director of Right to Life for East Texas, who attended the rally, said it was the responsibility of elected officials to pass the abortion ban ordinance, not their constituents.

Dickson appeared to have fired a direct shot at the mayor by quoting her in an earlier Standard-Times article in which Gunter said she was “firmly convinced” that citizens have a right to vote on whether to ban abortion.

“Seven people shouldn’t make this decision for this city,” said Gunter on September 9th. “A population of 110,000 should make that decision.”

More:Abortion could be banned in San Angelo “if the voters want it,” says the mayor

Dickson didn’t see it that way. Neither did Buck.

“The fact that San Angelo has a population of 110,000 shouldn’t make any difference in how the issue is voted on,” Dickson said Monday.

“They are trying to evade their responsibilities,” said Buck. “We don’t have a referendum or vote every time the city council makes a decision.

Martine believes anti-abortion advocates are trying to beat the clock on a possible U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legal experts believe could weight Senate Bill 8, a recently passed law that authorizes almost all abortions in Texas forced an abrupt conclusion.

“They don’t want to wait for a vote because there might be a change from the state or probably from the federal government,” Martine said in a message to the Standard-Times.

“We need the city council to consider, not just the majority population, but what is best for all citizens of San Angelo,” Martine said.

Mark Lee Dickson, director of Right to Life in East Texas, helped stack a package of diapers that was slated for donation to the Pregnancy Aid Center.  Sanctuary City anti-abortion advocates held a rally at San Angelo City Hall Plaza, 72 W College Avenue on Monday, September 20, 2021.

Thomas: ‘The citizens chose (us) to make decisions.’

After listening to public comments on Tuesday, District 3 councilor Harry Thomas appeared to agree with proponents of the sanctuary.

“I think the citizens of San Angelo chose (us) to make decisions that allow us to move forward on many issues,” said Thomas. “In all honesty, I think the regulation may ultimately help some of these young women make the right decision.”

“Whether the majority of the city council agrees is another matter,” he said.

Thomas said City Attorney Theresa James will brief city officials on the “pros and cons of the ordinance” during a closed executive session in the near future.

San Angelo resident Jon Mark Hogg, who served on the San Angelo City Council both as an individual district member and mayor prototype, believes it is possible that an election could take place no matter what.

“Even if the council passed such a regulation without a vote, the opponents can ask the council to put the repeal of the regulation on the ballot so that there will likely be an election in any case,” Hogg said in a message to the Standard -Times.

“As for the division of the issue, as a former councilor I can only point out that the issuance of the regulation has already led to division in the community. There are just as many people who oppose such a measure as they support, ”said Hogg called.

However, previous Texas elections appear to favor anti-abortion groups.

Of the 38 cities that have issued similar ordinances, only one, Lubbock, has put the measure to the vote. The ordinance was later passed by more than 62% in favor of banning abortion, according to the Texas Tribune.

Registered voters in Tom Green County have considered abortion in the past. During the March 2018 Republican primary, one question on the ballot was, “I believe abortion should be abolished in Texas. Vote yes or no.”

Of the 6,948 registered Republican voters who voted, an overwhelming majority of 5,017 people in Tom Green County (72%) called for abortion to be abolished.

Others read:San Angelo residents hold a rally on the Women’s March to protest Texas’ abortion law

John Tufts covers corporate and investigative issues in West Texas. Send him a tip at [email protected]

Read the draft ordinance banning abortion in the city of San Angelo

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