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Austin councilmembers call for special meeting on abortion rights-based GRACE Act

Following the Supreme Court Decision on Roe v. Wade, councilmembers want the meeting to be held as soon as possible.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin councilmembers are asking for a special called meeting to be held as soon as possible so they can pass the "Guarding the Right to Abortion Care for Everyone" (GRACE) Act.

In a post on the City of Austin Council Message Board, District 4 Councilmember José "Chito" Vela said the GRACE Act orders the city manager to label abortion as the absolute lowest priority in terms of criminal investigation and punishment. It also keeps city funds from being used to find or report evidence regarding abortion and "limits protections to abortions which are not forced, coerced, or criminally negligent to the health of the pregnant person seeking care, or abortions which are evidence of another crime and are being investigated specifically for that purpose." 

The call for a special Austin City Council meeting comes in light of the Supreme Court's Friday opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to abortion.

"Today is a painful day for our country, and I grieve the violations of bodily autonomy which the Texas state government will soon impose on Austin residents," Vela said in the message board post. "I welcome any of my colleagues who wish to co-sponsor the GRACE Act, and I hope our city can be a source of grace to those who will be targeted for making what should be a private medical decision."

While other councilmembers voiced their support for cosponsoring the act, the initial call for a special called meeting came from Vela and District 2 Councilmember Vanessa Fuentes.

"Protecting abortion rights promotes health, supports individual autonomy and addresses longstanding racial and economic inequities, which is why today’s SCOTUS ruling will have irreparable short and long-term effects across our entire country," Fuentes wrote in response to Chito's message board post. "The dismantling of Roe v. Wade leaves millions without the freedom to access essential healthcare and has opened the door to further state & federal oppression - oppression that already disenfranchised communities will feel the hardest."

The council only had two meetings scheduled in June before a brief summer break until July 28, but the SCOTUS decision came after those two meetings, meaning the act would require a special meeting.

Fuentes told KVUE the resolution would not supersede state law. The City's legal team has reviewed it to ensure compliance with state law, and she said it's written in a way that would "stand up in court if needed." 

KVUE reached out to the City of Austin about this measure and received the following statement:

“The City is prepared to take the steps necessary to implement this resolution upon passage by City Council.”

The potential move by the Austin City Council comes after a statement on Friday from Travis County District Attorney José Garza saying he would not prosecute abortion-related cases.

"A prosecutor's job is to protect public safety, and to enforce this law will not only fail to promote or protect public safety but will also lead to more harm," he said. "I know a lot of folks in our community are scared and worried about their safety and the safety of their loved ones. I promise that I will continue to fight for and protect women’s rights and use my discretion as the district attorney to avoid tragedy and preventable harm in our community."

KVUE has also reached out to Gov. Greg Abbott's office, but we have not received a response.

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