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San Antonio City Council passes resolution protecting abortion rights

The 9-2 vote assures no city funds will be used to document abortion or similar health care that could spark a criminal investigation.

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio City Council on Tuesday voted to pass a resolution aimed at safeguarding abortion rights in the city, concluding a lengthy special meeting that included input from various residents.

It passed 9-2, with Manny Pelaez and Clayton Perry representing the nay votes. 

The resolution prevents city funds from being used to keep record of reports of abortion, miscarriage or other reproductive healthcare acts that may be used to pursue a criminal investigation.

On a broader level, the resolution affirms the city's "commitment to protecting the right of its residents to make reproductive health decisions, including abortion care, for themselves."

District 5 councilwoman Teri Castillo introduced the resolution to protect abortion rights. Castillo held a news conference last week announcing the resolution.

This special session comes more than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade—the decision allowing a trigger law in Texas that bans abortion.

When proceedings got underway at the meeting Tuesday, speakers on both sides of the issue spoke during public comment. One speaker is a young woman who said through tears that her abortion "improved her life immeasurably."

“These claims that abortions hurt women are wrong and are ignorant and blanket statements that fail to recognize the complexity of varying experiences and belief systems. My abortions did not hurt me, they lifted me up and as a result I was able to lift up the people around me including the children in my life," Rachel Rabbani said during the start of the meeting.

Another speaker, the president of the UTSA Students for Life chapter, questioned why the city council was getting involved in directing the Bexar County District Attorney on what cases to prosecute.

Several groups against abortion including the San Antonio Coalition for Life also spoke out against the resolution.

“The statements in this resolution which cite the health and wellbeing of residents and the protection of human rights are in contradiction to the health and wellbeing and rights of the pre-born in San Antonio. Whether or not the city council agrees with the laws, its their responsibility to uphold them,” Dr. Catherine Nix said.

The law makes it a crime to aid or perform an abortion, and allows the attorney general to bring forth a lawsuit and seek a penalty of no less than $100,000 per performed abortion.

That law goes into effect on August 25.

The city says they can’t tell San Antonio Police or the chief of police which laws to enforce, but they can give a police recommendation not to criminalize women.

"It has very little if any, legal force. Again, it doesn't change state law in any way. It doesn't decriminalize the trigger law," city attorney Andy Segovia said.

"What it does do is give some guidance and some recommendations to the city manager in terms of how some city resources are going to be used for gathering information about abortion and enforcement," Segovia said.

Councilman Perry said he voted against the resolution because it doesn't change the trigger law.

"I don't support allowing the DA or the Sheriff to have a free pass on upholding their oath of office," Perry said.

This resolution is similar to the Grace Act which the city of Austin passed a few weeks ago. Their law directs the city manager to designate abortion as the lowest possible priority for a criminal investigation. Segovia says San Antonio could not make that addition in the ordinance.

"It was not put in there because under our framework, under the city charter, we cannot direct the city manager to prioritize certain crimes over another. That's why it was taken out," Segovia added.

Part of the resolution includes making abortion access a priority in the city’s legislative agenda for the state legislative session next year.

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