AUSTIN, Texas — Republican candidate for Texas House of Representatives and former Austin City Council member Don Zimmerman is suing the City of Austin and several abortion rights organizations after lawmakers voted to use city funds to assist abortion access.
The city’s 2019-2020 budget includes $150,000 set aside for “logistical and support services for Austin residents seeking abortion care,” Austin leaders said on Tuesday night.
The abortion services amendment passed 10-1.
In a lawsuit filed on Wednesday, Zimmerman argued the budget amendment violated the state’s abortion laws.
Zimmerman’s lawsuit claims the city’s expenditures violate state statutes from 1961 putting criminal liability on anyone who “furnishes the means for procuring an abortion knowing the purpose intended.”
“The Supreme Court has already ruled that no one has a right to force taxpayers to subsidize abortions,” Zimmerman told KVUE. “This has already been decided. So we’re going to win the case unless the court reverses itself. The fiscal and conservative majority has no chance to be heard other than going to court to demand that the city follow the law.”
The lawsuit references Senate Bill 22, which bans local governments from partnering with abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.
Austin’s $150,000 budget is set aside for organizations that provide logistical support such as travel and lodging and are not prohibited by SB 22 because they are not abortion providers or affiliates.
The statutes referenced in Zimmerman’s lawsuit refer to pre-Roe v. Wade laws that were not formally repealed by the Texas Legislature following the Supreme Court’s decision in 1973.
He argues that despite the decision of Roe v. Wade, there is no “implied repeal” of those laws without a state court ruling.
“The most vulnerable people in our community are the ones who haven’t been born yet and they need our protection,” said Zimmerman.
On Thursday, council member Greg Casar said the lawsuit reminded him of “a satire piece in The Onion.”
“The lawsuit reads like Zimmerman just stepped out of a misogynist time machine, and he doesn’t realize that things like abortion, interracial marriage, and birth control are suddenly all legal now.”
Casar says he's confident the suit won't go anywhere, and that the funding is needed for these groups.
“Hopefully we’re setting a path for other cities to be able to show not just what we’re against, but what we’re for – what we could do to really help people with these basic needs,” said Casar, “For now, his lawsuit isn’t going anywhere.”
Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza told KVUE in a statement:
“I wasn’t exactly surprised when I heard that Don Zimmerman had filed a lawsuit—it’s something he’s known for—but I feel very comfortable in the City’s position to defend against it, in part because it seems like the suit claims we’re violating a law that hasn’t been enforceable for decades. I stand by Council’s vote to approve this funding in the budget, and I stand by our legal right to do so.”
Council member Leslie Pool also told KVUE in a statement:
“I am confident that the City of Austin is on solid ground in providing financial support to entities that provide logistical support to women receiving abortion services.”
Zimmerman is demanding the mayor and the city claw back all public funds provided to abortion-assistance organizations.
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