San Antonio – San Antonio City Council members approved a resolution supporting abortion access in a 9-2 vote at the end of Tuesday’s emotionally-charged special meeting.
San Antonio’s resolution does not legalize or decriminalize abortion in San Antonio. However, it does make a policy recommendation against spending city money -- outside of what is “clearly required” by state and federal law -- to catalog, collect or share with other government agencies information on instances of abortion strictly to pursue criminal investigations.
“While there are significant things outside the control of the authority of the city, we must do everything in our power to protect all those seeking abortion and other reproductive health care from unnecessary harassment,” said District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo, the driving force behind the measure.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has opened the door for old and new state laws to almost entirely ban the process and has made many people anxious about their ability to access abortions.
More than 80 people from both sides of the abortion debate spoke for nearly three hours, sometimes sharing their personal stories before council members even started discussing the resolution.
Applause and jeers erupted intermittently, depending on the speaker, and Mayor Ron Nirenberg even called a five-minute recess at one point because of the outbursts.
The resolution’s language is similar to the “GRACE Act,” short for “Guarding the Right to Abortion Care for Everyone,” which the Austin City Council passed on July 21. However, it lacks Austin’s language, specifically stating that investigations into abortions would be “the lowest priority for enforcement,” which several speakers asked to be added to the San Antonio resolution.
City Attorney Andy Segovia said the city council cannot direct the city manager to prioritize certain crimes over others, and “if somebody reports a violation of law, the SAPD will have the legal obligation, just like any other law, to enforce it as applicable.”
Although the resolution language on spending city dollars is only a “policy recommendation,” Segovia told council members: “If this passes, I doubt very seriously that (City Manager Erik Walsh) will then start a task force of the SAPD specifically geared to enforce abortion laws, because clearly in the articulation of the council is you don’t want resources being spent that way.”
District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry and District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez voted against the resolution.
Perry, the council’s most conservative member, said the council did not have the legal authority to act on or create an ordinance to change state law regarding abortion. Pelaez said he supports abortion rights and referred to the resolution as “performative.”
“San Antonio will remain just as dangerous today for people -- for women who want to get abortions. A nonbinding resolution is insufficient to address the problem,” Pelaez said.
Castillo, though, pushed back sharply against Pelaez’s comments.
“So while to you, as a man, who can’t carry a child, believes that this is toothless, for the constituents throughout San Antonio who reached out to my office through social media, through our constituent services calls, this means something. And this holds weight,” Castillo said.