The El Paso City Council voted 7-1 on Tuesday to restrict the use of city resources when it comes to criminal investigations of abortions – reviving a proposal that failed to pass last summer.
The resolution, which was put forward a second time by city Rep. Alexsandra Annello and co-sponsored by Reps. Henry Rivera and Chris Canales, received support from every city council member with the exception of Joe Molinar. A similar proposal was voted down last July.
The approved resolution is intended to “ease the criminalization of abortion,” Annello said, following hours of public testimony on the issue. It states that city resources “including, for example, funds, personnel, or hardware will not be used to create any record of any information related to an individual seeking abortion, miscarriage, or any other event that could be prosecuted as a violation of state law criminalizing or creating civil liability for pregnancy outcomes.”
It also restricts the city’s ability to “provide information to other government agencies about pregnancy outcomes,” or to conduct surveillance surrounding abortions.
The resolution carves out exemptions for “cases of conduct that is criminally negligent to the health of the pregnant person seeking care or where coercion or force is used against the pregnant person.”
It is identical to city legislation that was originally drafted and passed by city council members in Austin, along with Dallas, San Antonio and Denton following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June. With the decision, a Texas state law made most abortions a first degree felony, which carries sentences of up to 99 years in prison.
City Rep. Isabel Salcido, who changed her vote from last summer, said she voted in favor of this year’s resolution after receiving assurances from the city attorney that staff would create a policy in line with state law.
About 50 people signed up to speak for and against the proposal.
Vanessa Medrano spoke in favor of the resolution.
“The decriminalization of abortion does not mean you agree with abortion,” said Medrano, who identifies as Catholic. “Decriminalizing simply means you do not wish for every person regardless of their circumstances to be unjustly punished for a procedure that you do not know the reason for.”
But Jessica Sifuentes, director of operations for the Southwest Coalition for Life, an anti-abortion group, argued that passing the proposal would make El Paso known as a “city of death.” It “simply tells women, ‘come here and we will help you kill your babies,’” she added.
The city is supposed to provide a written report and oral presentation about progress made toward implementing the resolution on March 27 and May 23 of this year.