A new pro-choice group is calling on Waco officials to order local law enforcement to make enforcement of state abortion laws their lowest priority, a possibility the Waco City Council Waco plans to discuss at an upcoming meeting.
Waco City Councilwoman Kelly Palmer said she knew she was breaking precedent when she asked the council to consider an ordinance prioritizing local enforcement of abortion limits, but that the issue has a tangible effect on the lives of his constituents in District 4 as well as his own life.
“There has been such an outpouring of gratitude from residents, whether they be health professionals or social service professionals, students or teachers who feel grateful that someone is ‘engage at this grassroots level,” Palmer said.
The Austin City Council recently passed the Abortion Rights Protection for All Act, or Pardon Act. The City of Denton has since passed a similar resolution, and the Dallas City Council is discussing the possibility. Discussion of a potential local version of the law, or some other kind of limit on local enforcement of abortion restrictions, will be on the city council’s agenda.
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Waco Mayor Dillon Meek said the council will carefully consider people’s concerns when hearing from visitors at council meetings, but he doesn’t think discussing abortion law is within the purview. from the city. Meek did not give specific reasons.
One of Pro-Choice Waco’s organizers, Jessica Macias, said the group was organizing protests and advocating for action, including a local version of the short-term Grace Act. In the long term, the approximately 500 members of the McLennan County group could vote to become a political action committee, providing financial support to political candidates in Texas who support legal access to abortion in the state.
One of the group’s organizers, Cassie Robertson, a disabled veteran, said she was banned from protesting until recently when she ended a seven-year career in the military as a combat medic, including nine months in Afghanistan, and moved from Fort Hood to Waco.
“Many in my group of friends felt the same way, had strong feelings about losing what we consider a human right,” Robertson said.
She said her biggest priority is to get the city council to consider measures such as the Grace Act or other measures that deprioritize enforcement of the state’s abortion ban against people seeking to have abortions and against physicians seeking to prescribe drugs that can be used to induce abortions in certain circumstances. , including the methotrexate she takes for arthritis, or prescribing medically necessary abortions.
“It’s torture,” Robertson said. “It’s psychological, mental, emotional, physical torture. These women are held on the brink of death, before they are allowed to undergo a medically necessary abortion.
Pro-Life Waco Director John Pisciotta said he expects the community to respond strongly and attend the next board meeting in greater numbers.
“There are a lot of people like me who find it an abomination that this is even mentioned in the city council,” Pisciotta said. “And of course we are a divided country, we are a divided city. There are people in our town who love it, who just think it’s good that maybe we can defend abortion with such a move.
Emma Church, a local clinical psychologist who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder, spoke at the July 19 town council meeting. She warned listeners that she would talk about sexual assault and domestic violence. Church said abortion is a mental health issue, and she is particularly concerned for patients suffering from domestic violence, and for transgender and non-binary people and others who have already experienced chronic abuse.
“I’m a single mom, a domestic violence survivor, and a rape survivor,” Church said. “If pregnancy had been used by my abuser to exert control, I may never have broken free from the cycle of violence.”
Church said she has already seen the effect of abortion limits on the mental health of her patients.
“I have observed that for many white women, the reversal of Roe v. Wade opened their eyes to their own lived experiences. Things like marital rape, sexual assault, spiritual abuse, chronic trauma, control and coercion are only now being addressed in light of this historic suppression of human rights,” Church said.
She said women from minority groups, on the other hand, have known their rights have been in jeopardy for much longer.
Megan Thornhill, who called herself a pro-choice lawyer, asked how much of the city’s public safety funding would go to enforcing national abortion laws. She also cited a 2022 study published in American Law and Economics Review, “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime Over the Past Two Decades,” which estimates that crime fell 17.5% from 1998. to 2014 due to legalized abortion.
“There is an inverse relationship between access to abortion and criminal activity, and changes are expected to occur gradually and increase over time,” she said. “It is clear that the criminalization of abortion without reducing unwanted pregnancies has an immense social cost which will require the allocation of more public funds to deal with the consequences of violent crimes which will inevitably result in the decades to come.”
Cheryl Foster said Waco had an “age-old tradition of sweeping uncomfortable issues under the rug” and she was not surprised by the board’s neutrality.
“If you want to stay neutral, watch your data,” Foster said. “Watch your funding, watch your police, watch your (district attorney) and we will watch you.”