Four more Texas towns have voted to ban abortion within their city limits as the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn initiative spreads throughout the state and to other states as well.
In August alone, four new Sanctuary Cities have voted to pass ordinances that outlaw abortion within their boundaries: Eastland, Leona, Crawford, and Brownsboro.
Of the four most recent cities, Eastland, Leona, and Crawford, saw unanimous passage by their city councils. The Brownsboro council passed the ordinance by a vote of 3-1.
The first Sanctuary City to pass the ordinance was Waskom, Texas, in June 2019.
Mark Lee Dickson, the founder of the movement and the director of Right to Life East Texas, said the focus on local communities making decisions for themselves about whether they want the ending of unborn lives occurring in their midst has been a game-changer.
“For so long, we’ve put our focus at what happens in Austin, Texas, and what happens in Washington DC, as the be all and end all,” he told Breitbart News in a phone interview. “And when I really became convinced – the straw that broke the camel’s back for me was the realization that, if an abortion facility moves to Waskom, Texas, that would not be Austin’s problem, and it wouldn’t be Washington, DC’s problem. It would be Waskom’s problem. And that Waskom had this obligation to do something.”
Dickson, who is also a pastor, said he was inspired by scripture – Amos 5:15 – “which says to hate evil and to love good and to establish justice within the city gates.”
“All throughout Scripture we see that the watchmen of the city have this responsibility to protect their inhabitants,” he explained. “And, you know, it’s the fault of the leaders of the city, when they allow certain things to come in, and that affect their people. And so, realizing that, that was what convinced me that this was an issue that the city of Waskom had to address, that the leadership – they were the only ones that could do something.”
Dickson said he never had a fixed plan for his movement.
“It was one of those situations where I didn’t completely see the full picture of things,” he admitted. “This is a situation where, when people ask me, well what’s the end game, you know, are you trying to get a certain number of cities, are trying to do this or that? I’m just trying to be faithful to God.”
Dickson said if cities feel moved to outlaw abortion within their limits, then they need to go ahead with it.
Local city officials have been unafraid to celebrate the approval of their ordinances to outlaw abortion.
In Eastland, Texas, City Commissioner Zac Darr said in a statement:
Let’s speak the truth, an unborn child is a child. Once life enters the womb that life must be protected. This ordinance prevents abortions from happening in our town. Abortion is a travesty, and it should not have been allowed to happen – ever! Here in Eastland we will not allow the killing of innocent human beings – regardless of whether those human beings are inside or outside the womb.
Similarly, Crawford Councilwoman Cindy Vannatta said, “Crawford is honored to stand up for the unborn to make sure that no babies are killed in our city limits by abortion.”
Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph E. Strickland, of the Tyler Diocese, said he is “so grateful to all who have worked with Mark Lee Dickson and others to establish Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn in more than thirty communities.”
“It is my prayer that every community in East Texas and beyond will join this grassroots effort to protect the unborn,” the bishop added. “Let’s make the USA a pro-life nation even if we have to do it one city at a time.”
Lubbock, Texas, became the largest city in the United States to declare itself a “sanctuary city for the unborn,” the 26th in the nation to outlaw abortion. https://t.co/L9bH5NpzXW
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) May 3, 2021
As the movement spreads, and more city and town councils invite Dickson to come speak to them about how to craft an ordinance to ban abortion, the controversy has heated up as well, to the point at which Dickson said he has received various threats.
Abortion rights groups in Naples, Florida, for example, are taking the new movement seriously since the city commission received requests from citizens to pass an ordinance that outlaws abortion.
The Sanctuary City movement drew national attention in June, when a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood against the city of Lubbock over its ordinance, citing a lack of jurisdiction.
As Dickson has explained in the past, the movement’s signature ordinance contains two “enforcement mechanisms,” one public and one private.
“While the public enforcement mechanism is dependent upon the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the private enforcement mechanism is immediately enforceable,” he observed. “It is not reliant on the overturning of Roe v. Wade.”
The ordinance’s private enforcement mechanism states:
Any person, corporation, or entity that commits an unlawful act … other than the mother of the unborn child that has been aborted, shall be liable in tort to the unborn child’s mother, father, grandparents, siblings and half-siblings. The person or entity that committed the unlawful act shall be liable to each surviving relative of the aborted unborn child for: (a) Compensatory damages, including damages for emotional distress; (b) Punitive damages; and (c) Costs and attorneys’ fees.
Thus, the enforcement of the ordinance rests with private citizens who could file lawsuits if abortions take place within the city’s limits.
In Lubbock, the ruling meant that abortion is illegal within the city.
“We have said from the beginning that this ordinance is completely bulletproof from pre-enforcement lawsuits,” Dickson said after the court’s dismissal. “The court’s ruling … is an emphatic vindication of that.”
Now, as he travels across the country, Dickson said he sees that the majority of the cities seeking to pass an ordinance banning abortion are in “red areas.”
“I’m sure the majority of cities in America don’t want abortion within their city limits,” he said. “And if the majority of cities were to put it to a vote, I’m sure that we’d have more cities outlawing abortion than allowing it.”
Dickson said, however, what is lacking is “courage.”
“I think the majority of our cities are pro-life,” he asserted. “It’s just they lack courage to stand. So, that’s what we’re meeting to see, people rise up and, of course, it’s becoming more and more common that people are realizing that, wait a second, we can do this, and so people are waking up from the matrix, they’re realizing that we do have this ability, that we can make a change in our communities.”
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life Action, said her organization continually works to make “abortion-free cities” a “top priority.”
“We have taken a political model of door knocking and local campaigning to educate communities on the services available for women and their children, born and preborn, which we are rolling out in cities across the country,” she told Breitbart News. “But combined with those efforts, we are also fighting for a legal environment in which human life is protected from conception to natural death.”
“The Sanctuary Cities movement represents the heart of our communities, making it clear that our commitment to children begins from their very beginning, so that they have the chance to make a difference in the future, just as we have today,” she asserted.
Dickson observed abortion is not the only issue for which Americans have refocused their attention on local government.
“All across America, I would say there’s an increased awareness of the importance of local offices, officers, whether that be mayor, city council, school board,” he noted. “We’re seeing a type of awakening, right now, that I hope continues, and will go down in history books. It’s an awaking of the importance of local government.”