Austin city leaders are working to decriminalize abortion in the event the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, a decision that would trigger a Texas state law and ban abortion within 30 days.
Texas’ so-called “trigger” law would make performing an abortion in which “an unborn child dies as a result of the offense” a first-degree felony, punishable by up to life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. The only exception would be to save the life of the mother.
Austin City Councilman Jose Chito Vela has proposed a resolution, called “GRACE,” or the Guarding the Right to Abortion Care for Everyone Act, to bypass Texas policy and protect women.
“The resolution does two things. One, it restricts city funds from being used to essentially investigate any kind of alleged abortion crimes,” Vela said. “[It also makes] the investigation of any abortion-related crime the lowest priority for our Police Department.”
Vela said he has been having “ongoing conversations” with the Austin Police Department about the proposal.
“The police do not want to be in the middle of this controversy,” he said. “The police right now in Austin are struggling with staffing,” Vela said. “I don’t think the police want to dedicate resources to these types of, what I would call, ‘political crimes.'”
Austin’s resolution also would work to protect patients and medical professionals from criminal prosecution, advocates say.
Other Texas cities could follow Austin’s lead. Ground Game Texas, a group that pushes for local ballot measures, is looking to push similar measures in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas.
Texas is one of 26 states that has a “trigger” law that would ban abortions following a reversal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that protects the federal right to terminate a pregnancy.
The Supreme Court is expected to make its final decision on Roe v. Wade near the end of June. A leaked draft of the court’s opinion showed a conservative majority of the nine justices are open to reverse it.
Vela said the “Grace” Act still is in draft form and will be considered after the Supreme Court announces a decision.
“Whatever your thoughts on abortion, criminal prosecution of women who have abortions is absolutely unacceptable and an abuse by the criminal justice system,” he said.
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