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Austin Pushing to ‘Decriminalize’ Abortion Ahead of SCOTUS Ruling on Roe v. Wade

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The city of Austin, Texas is looking to protect its residents from a state law that would criminalize almost all abortions if the United States Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade


Politico reported Monday that Austin councilmember Chito Vela is proposing a resolution that would make the city’s police department make enforcement, arrest and investigation of abortions its “lowest priority” and redistrict funds from being used to report and investigate abortions.

Texas, like several other states, has a “trigger law” that would take effect 30 days after the Supreme Court strikes down Roe. The law will make performing or attempting an abortion a first-degree felony. It includes one exception for the life of the mother.

The trigger law will make performing, inducing or attempting an abortion where “an unborn child dies as a result of the offense” a first-degree felony, punishable by up to life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. It contains an exception only to save the life of the pregnant person.

The new resolution doesn’t explicitly decriminalize abortion but rather directs police to make it their lowest enforcement priority in an effort to skirt conflict with state law, Vela said. But it highlights the tension between red state and the blue cities, where a new front in the battle over abortion rights is opening as the Supreme Court prepares to issue a decision on Roe in the coming weeks.

A city of Austin spokesperson said in a statement that “the city is prepared to take the steps necessary to implement this resolution upon passage by City Council.” The council passed a similar measure in 2020 that effectively decriminalized marijuana by ending arrests and fines for low-level possession, which the police department has followed.

Vela said he is having “ongoing conversations” with Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon about the proposal and hopes the department will comply with the directive. A department spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.


Earlier this month, an unprecedented leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court showed the Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe. The opinion is from the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case surrounds a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi.

Townhall has covered how Texas enacted a law, S.B. 8, in September that outlawed abortions after fetal heartbeat detection. The law allows private citizens to pursue legal action against individuals who provide illegal abortions. Those who successfully bring lawsuits under the law can receive $10,000.

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