What You Should Know about "Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn"

Monday, January 20, 2020 blog Share

You deserve access to safe and effective abortion care on your own terms no matter what.

Women sitting talking

In a friendly and progressive context, a sanctuary city is one that limits its interactions with federal authorities with the goals protecting immigrants and undocumented people from being arrested and deported. Anti-choice folks in Texas, however, have taken this idea in a much more nefarious direction, in the form of declaring certain communities in the state to be "sanctuary cities for the unborn".

What is a "sanctuary city" for the unborn?

It's a city that has outlawed abortion via an ordinance, regardless of whether or not there are any abortion clinics in the city. In some of these cities, such as Waskom, Texas, where organizations like Planned Parenthood are known as "criminal organizations,"  the ban also targets those who help people access abortion care, as well as those who sell emergency contraception.

Where are these cities?

So far, they're mostly in East Texas: Waskom, Naples, Joaquin, Tenaha, Gilmer, Westbrook, Rusk, Colorado City, and soon, Big Spring. Riverton, Utah also became a "sanctuary city" in May of 2019.  There have been attempts to pass these ordinances in North Carolina, and New Mexico.

Is this legal?

Should Roe v. Wade be overturned, the cities could enforce the ordinance. According to the ACLU of Texas, it's more of a grandstanding measure, since abortion remains legal in the state, but that doesn't mean it's not deeply harmful right now.

What does this mean for folks seeking abortion care in these cities?

The majority communities who have voted to become "sanctuary cities" are places where reproductive health care is not easy to access in the first place, so if you need an abortion in Rusk, Texas, for example, the nearest city, Garland, Texas is 117 miles away - that's a 2 and a half hour drive.

Whether or not you can get there depends on if it's safe for you to travel (are you undocumented? Are you in an abusive relationship that prohibits you from leaving the house?),  you have a license/access to a vehicle, or a bus ticket, if you can afford to take the day off from work, if you have childcare, if you're under the age of 18, and if you can financially accommodate the cost of the abortion, as well as gas, food, and potentially a hotel, since Texas law requires that one make two trips to the clinic before you're able to actually get the abortion and a waiting period of 24 hours.

In short, these city-wide ordinances, usually passed by all-male city councils, place a significant and potentially overwhelming barrier between those seeking abortions and their ability to obtain them. In addition, there's the stigma created and perpetuated by the bans, and the danger it puts upon abortion providers, not just in the area, but in general, when they're labeled as criminals. 

You deserve access to safe and effective abortion care on your own terms no matter what. If you live in one of these cities, in a rural area, or for any reason you think (or are wondering if) self-managed abortion might be the right choice for you, check out the questions and answerson our website, which includes information on how to get abortion pills, how to take them, what to expect, and more.