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Dallas City Council Looks to Limit Local Impact of Texas’ Abortion Law

Dallas could join several other Texas cities in passing resolutions that would make investigating suspected abortions a low, unresourced priority.
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Kelsey Shoemaker

The Dallas City Council could consider a resolution in August aimed at blunting the impact of the Texas Legislature’s trigger law that will go into effect following the Supreme Court’s decision that overturned Roe vs. Wade. 

Dallas’ measure would direct city staff—which includes the Dallas Police Department—to make investigating and prosecuting accusations of abortion “the lowest priority for enforcement” and instructs City Manager T.C. Broadnax to not use “city resources, including … funds, personnel, or hardware” to create records regarding individual pregnancy outcomes, provide information about pregnancy outcomes to any agency, or to investigate whether an abortion has occurred, a draft copy of the resolution obtained by D reads.

“I would say that it technically really does accomplish the decriminalization here locally,” said Dallas City Councilman Adam Bazaldua, who worked on the resolution and chairs the committee that will consider the matter before it goes to the full Council. “Being the lowest priority, … there’s not much of an investigation that could be done if there’s no resources that are able to be allocated.”

The measure does not apply to instances where law enforcement officials might need to investigate cases of criminal negligence by a practitioner in the care of a pregnant person, or where force or coercion is used against a pregnant person. 

The resolution will be introduced in a special-called meeting of the council’s Quality of Life, Arts, and Culture Committee Tuesday. If approved by the committee, he aims to have it before the full Council at its Aug. 10 meeting. If it passes, Dallas would join many cities that have sought restrictions with similar resolutions, including Denton, Waco, and Austin. The San Antonio City Council will vote on its resolution Tuesday.

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot said in June that he would not prosecute cases generated by the state’s trigger law, which the Texas Legislature established to make abortion illegal after the Supreme Court’s ruling. Bazaldua hopes that the Dallas County Commissioners Court would agree to a similar resolution.

All of this is to say that the city will undoubtedly be trading some paint with state officials—particularly Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton—when it comes to these measures. Paxton has already vowed to prosecute cases that run afoul of the new state law when local district attorneys won’t. That trigger law bans almost all abortions when it goes into effect Aug. 25. It increases the criminal and civil penalties associated with abortion that were already in place by way of laws that existed prior to the 1973 federal Roe vs. Wade decision.

Bazaldua said he knows the city can do little about the law itself, but he hopes this resolution would provide a measure of protection for healthcare providers who could face felony charges if suspected of providing an abortion. Pregnant people would also have similar protections, he said. 

“There’s only so much that can be done at the local level and this is about as much as we can get,” he said, adding that after the resolution is passed, ideally the city would begin working with nonprofit and private-sector partners to help people locate resources if they need to travel to another state for an abortion.

He also doesn’t see this resolution endangering the city when it comes to another recently passed law that would penalize cities that “defund” their police departments. He argues that funding isn’t being reduced.

“What can they do? Punish a city for saying this should not be a priority of ours?” he said. “When we have violent crime that’s going on, that we should be focusing our resources and funding on?”

Bazaldua said he worked with the city attorney’s office on the wording of the resolution. He said he also talked through the idea with colleagues. He anticipates that the committee Tuesday will support the measure, and that a supermajority of the council will be in favor of it when it comes before the entire body.

“I think that it’s important for us to take a stance as local elected officials,” he said. “We were voted in and when we see something as outrageous and dangerous as the Dobbs ruling, for us to sit back and not provide some type of protection for Dallas women, to me, is a missed opportunity.”

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.

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