Campaigners in San Antonio, Texas are fighting for abortion to be decriminalized in the city. More than 38,000 signatures were delivered to the city clerk’s office petitioning for a vote in May to allow for the public to vote on abortion rights.
The state of Texas banned abortion in August 2022 after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, ending the federal constitutional right to an abortion.
Texas has one of the strictest abortion bans in the country.
The San Antonio initiative would mark the first of its kind that would ban law enforcement from criminally investigating abortion. It is also the first example of a group attempting to undermine state policy at the city level through ballot proposals.
Right now in Texas, police are still allowed to make arrests or conduct investigations for so-called abortion crimes. But if the voters in the city approve the justice charter, police will be banned from taking any enforcement action.
The campaigners hope to pass the San Antonio Justice Charter, which is a suite of reforms trying to make their way to the municipal ballot. In addition to decriminalizing abortion, the reforms would also end criminalization for low-level marijuana possession, and put limits on police use of no-knock warrants and chokeholds.
It would also establish a city Justice Director to oversee criminal justice policy.
Three cities in Texas, San Antonio, Austin, and Waco, have already passed resolutions to de-prioritize the investigation of abortion crimes through their city councils in 2022.
It came at the same time that a string of progressive district attorneys across the country vowed to resist state abortion bans that came into effect when the federal right to abortion ended in June.
Other cities and towns across the United States have tried to take the abortion issue out of states’ hands. This includes New Orleans, whose city council passed a similar resolution in July 2022, and Rodnor, Pennsylvania, which also passed an ordinance trying to pre-empt any future abortion ban, should one take hold in the state.