As abortion laws in the South and Midwest prohibit nearly all abortions in a dozen states, some city officials are looking for new ways to protect abortion access.
While city officials cannot directly overturn state legislation, some are advocating for city-wide legislation to mitigate the effects of state bans.
The Austin City Council voted on Thursday to pass the GRACE Act, which effectively decriminalizes abortion in the city. Mackenzie Kelly, a council member, was absent from the vote.
The city policy will be updated to deprioritize the investigation or enforcement of any pregnancy and abortion-related charges.
While Austin is still subject to Texas’ abortion law, which prohibits nearly all abortions in the state, the GRACE act seeks to reduce criminal liability for those who seek or provide abortions. According to the District 4 office, the legislation also prohibits the use of city funds or other resources for information sharing, data collection, and surveillance related to abortion services and other reproductive health decisions.
However, the act will not apply when “coercion or force” is used against a pregnant person or in cases of criminal negligence involving a pregnant person’s health, according to the office.
According to Jenna Hanes, communications director for the District 4 office, council member Vela believes abortion is just like any other form of health care and should not be limited by politics.
On Thursday, the city council unanimously approved three new abortion-related bills.
One was a nondiscrimination ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in housing or employment based on a resident’s previous reproductive choices.
The council also approved two other measures proposed by the city’s mayor, Steve Adler.
One example is a public awareness campaign about birth control options, including male-targeted options like vasectomies. The second directs the city manager to look into ways to help city employees travel for any procedure that cannot be obtained in Texas, including abortions.
Louisiana’s abortion laws are currently in effect because a temporary restraining order was issued on June 27 and has since been extended several times, with a state judge expected to hear arguments Tuesday, according to officials.
According to the mayor’s office, the New Orleans City Council passed a resolution similar to the GRACE Act in June that prohibits local law enforcement from using public funds or resources to enforce the trigger ban.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams has stated that his office will not prosecute abortion providers, and the New Orleans Police Department and Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office have stated that they will not arrest or investigate abortion providers.
In opposition, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry urged the state treasurer and his fellow members of the Bond Commission, a state agency that determines who can incur debt or levy taxes, to postpone any applications and funding for New Orleans and Orleans Parish until officials agreed to enforce the ban, according to statement from Landry.
A similar situation exists in St. Louis, where Mayor Tishaura Jones signed legislation on Thursday directing $1 million in federal relief funds to support abortion access, according to the mayor’s press conference.
Following a nearly three-hour debate on Tuesday, the St. Louis County Council voted earlier this week not to adopt a similar bill to use federal funding for abortion resources.
The effort, sponsored by Council members Lisa Clancy, D-5th District, and Kelli Dunaway, D-2nd District, was defeated by a 4-3 vote at the meeting’s conclusion, preventing it from becoming law. Clancy told ABC News that she sponsored the bill because “removing access to this procedure is a fundamental violation of women’s and other pregnant people’s freedom to self-determine their health care decisions.”
Clancy claims that two abortion clinics in neighboring Illinois are the closest to the St. Louis area. Getting to those clinics, however, remains nearly impossible for those without transportation, lodging, or child care.
District 6 Council member Ernie Trakas told ABC News that he does not believe it is legal to use such funds for abortion travel and that passing such a bill would “undoubtedly result in a lawsuit being filed by the Missouri Attorney General.”