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Pro-choice protesters march down Congress Avenue outside the Texas State Capitol in Austin on May 29, 2021. (Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

'Fighting Back': Austin, Texas Sets Date to Decriminalize Abortion Care

"The Austin City Council refuses to allow our residents to live under the threat of 99 years in prison for the so-called crime of providing basic medical care," said Council Member Chito Vela.

Jessica Corbett

The Austin City Council plans to make good on members' pledges to challenge attacks on abortion rights with a vote next week on a resolution intended to help protect patients and providers in the Texas capital.

"The importance of this vote can't be overstated."

During a special meeting scheduled for 10:00 am local time on July 21, the council is set to vote on the Guarding the Right to Abortion Care for Everyone (GRACE) Act, formally introduced last month by Council Member José "Chito" Vela after the U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority overturned Roe v. Wade.

Co-sponsored by Council Members Paige Ellis, Vanessa Fuentes, and Kathie Tovo along with Mayor Steve Adler, the GRACE Act would effectively decriminalize abortion in the city by directing the Austin Police Department to make alleged related crimes its lowest priority and restricting the use of funds for investigations.

Although the "trigger law" passed last year by the Texas Legislature has not yet taken effect, it is expected to later this year—and the state Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that a 1925 abortion ban can be enforced.

"By introducing this resolution during a special session, City Council is doubling down on fighting back for reproductive health," Fuentes said just after the Roe reversal. "Items like the GRACE Act will promote essential healthcare while enabling individuals to exercise their bodily freedom."

Vela told Common Dreams in an email Wednesday that "the importance of this vote can't be overstated."

"The Austin City Council refuses to allow our residents to live under the threat of 99 years in prison for the so-called crime of providing basic medical care," he added. "I encourage Austin residents to sign up to speak in favor of the GRACE Act at our meeting on Thursday, July 21."

City residents who wish to speak in support of the resolution next week—either virtually or in person—can sign up online from Monday, June 18 to noon local time on Wednesday, June 20.

While the GRACE Act would only apply to Austin, Vela recently noted that there are similar efforts in other cities located in states with post-Roe trigger bans and other abortion restrictions.

"We know this resolution is legally sound, and Austin is not alone in this fight," he said. "We are working with several other cities who are equally horrified by the prospect of an abortion ban and want to do everything they can to protect their residents."

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