At heated meeting, San Antonio City Council approves resolution to protect abortion access

The largely symbolic resolution recommends that city funds not be used to pay for investigations intended to enforce state anti-abortion laws.

District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo makes a point from the dais. - Screen Capture / SATV
Screen Capture / SATV
District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo makes a point from the dais.

San Antonio City Council voted 9-2 Tuesday to approve a largely symbolic resolution recommending that city funds not be used to pay for investigations intended to enforce state anti-abortion laws.

The late-afternoon vote capped hours of heated debate that packed council chambers.

The adopted resolution doesn't legalize or decriminalize abortion in San Antonio. However, it does offer guidance that city funds shouldn't be used to collect or share information on abortions to be passed on to other government entities pursuing criminal investigations. Even so, the measure includes an exception for instances in which local officials are "clearly required" to do so by state and federal law.

Council was largely expected to approve the resolution, championed by District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo. It was modeled after the “GRACE Act,” short for “Guarding the Right to Abortion Care for Everyone,” which Austin's council passed late last month.

"I want to open by reiterating that abortion is and will never stop being healthcare," Castillo said ahead of the vote. "Everyone deserves access to a safe abortion and other reproductive healthcare. San Antonio has a history and identity for fighting back against injustice." 

Texas' so-called "trigger law" banning nearly all abortions is scheduled to go into effect Aug. 25. That law was enabled by the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, undoing nearly 50 years of federal abortion protections.

Abortion-rights proponents have raised concerns that in a post-Roe world people who help others obtain abortion access in states where the procedure is legal could be targeted by Texas lawmakers. They also warn that women who seek abortions could have their privacy rights violated by state enforcement actions.

District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry said he voted against the resolution because the city can't override Texas' abortion laws. District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez said he worries the measure lacks teeth and would only confuse people into thinking it decriminalizes abortion. He said Austin's resolution created similar confusion.  

Castillo accused Pelaez of "mansplaining" the fallout of Austin's vote and urged him to use passage of the San Antonio ordinance to advocate for women during the next session of the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature. 

Emotions ran high during public comment before the vote. Several times, Nirenberg urged people to stop cheering and heckling during the process so speakers could hear their names called.

Multiple supporters of the resolution shared their own abortion stories, expressing concern that a lack of women's healthcare will increase risks for the poor and people of color. A few urged council to give the measure more teeth by including language making abortion prosecutions the lowest priority for San Antonio police.

"This attack is not only on abortion but on bodily autonomy and women's medical care," speaker Antonia Taylor said of the need for the council resolution.

Most most people speaking against proposal argued that the procedure can harm women and families. However, some wielded more divisive language, with one labeling the proposal's supporters, "Marxist, homofasists and feminists" and another invoking the damnation and hellfire verbiage of a TV preacher.

"You can't get your kicks on Route 666," he said of council's likely support of the resolution.

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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