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Austin City Council approves resolutions protecting abortion rights

The GRACE Act will not necessarily legalize abortion within Austin's city limits, but it will direct City officials on how to investigate reports of abortion.

AUSTIN, Texas — As the State of Texas plans to further restrict access to abortion, the Austin City Council on Thursday approved resolutions that would decriminalize it within the city limits.

The council held a special meeting Thursday about the "Guarding the Right to Abortion Care for Everyone" Act, commonly known as the GRACE Act. The meeting was initially requested by District 4 Councilmember José "Chito" Vela and District 2 Councilmember Vanessa Fuentes. 

The GRACE Act, which consists of four resolutions, will not necessarily legalize abortion within Austin's city limits, but it will direct City officials on how to investigate reports of abortion.

Item 1 is an ordinance amending City code chapters to prohibit discrimination based on reproductive health actions for housing, public accommodations, employment and employment by City contractors. This means no one could be fired, evicted, denied housing or denied a job for getting an abortion.

Item 2 would prevent City funding from being used to catalog any reports of abortion, miscarriage or other health care acts. City funds would not be used to report evidence to any other government agencies unless such information is given to defend the patient's right to abortion or a health care provider's right to provide such care. Funds would also not be used for surveillance or to collect information on people concerning abortions.

Item 3 "establishes equitable access to contraception as essential to family planning, reproductive freedom and public health." The resolution directs the city manager to explore the ability to conduct a public education program on long-term birth control, such as vasectomies, with the help of local health partners.

Item 4 directs the city manager to address the feasibility of providing City employees with benefits, such as travel and accommodation expenses, to help make sure they have access to abortions and other reproductive services no longer available in the state. 

The council had the backing of other City organizations to pass these resolutions. The chair of Austin's Commission for Women said the GRACE Act could be a measure of protection for people in the city.

"It's written in such a way that, you know, although we can't necessarily change federal or state laws and that we have to adhere to those at the city level, that it provides additional protections and additional resources and support for individuals who are making these decisions" Rebecca Austen said.

Austin isn't the only Texas city considering legislation like this. The GRACE Act is also being considered in Denton and the Waco City Council was asked to consider it Wednesday night.

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