City of Austin sued over using taxpayer money to fund abortion access

Ten days after a new law went into effect prohibiting taxpayer dollars from funding abortion facilities, the Austin City Council voted to direct $150,000 of next year’s budget to fund abortion access.

The next day, Don Zimmerman, an Austin resident and former council member, sued the city.

“This expenditure of taxpayer money violates the state’s abortion laws and should be promptly enjoined,” the petition and application for temporary injunction reads.

Earlier this year, the Texas Legislature enacted Senate Bill 22, sponsored by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, which prohibits governmental entities, including the city of Austin, from providing taxpayer money or resources to abortion providers or their affiliates.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law, which became effective Sept. 1.

The only exception is for “basic public services, including fire and police protection and utilities” that are provided to the general public, Zimmerman notes.

The new law ends what Campbell calls “sweetheart rent deals,” specifically in Austin where Planned Parenthood’s rental agreement with the city was $1 per year.

The City Council’s vote to amend next year’s $4.2 billion budget directs taxpayer money to fund “logistical assistance” to women seeking abortions. The money covers travel, lodging and childcare expenses, and does not fund the cost of the abortion.

The lawsuit contends that because state law prohibits “furnish[ing] the means” to an abortion, Austin’s budget allocation of taxpayer dollars is illegal, “in defiance of state law.”

“It’s not surprising the City of Austin would manipulate the law to use taxpayer dollars to pay for transportation and lodging to those seeking an abortion,” Campbell said in response to the vote. “Unlike the city, the state is creating a culture of life.”

Texas Values, which testified against the city’s move to fund abortion access, said in a statement: “This budget amendment is a political stunt attempting to circumvent the law. If the city really wants to help women, they should lower their taxes and stop killing innocent children.”

According to Texas Right to Life, Austin stands out from “other cities throughout Texas that are making a concerted effort to become ‘Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn.”

Two days before the Austin City Council vote to fund abortion access, the city councils of Omaha, Texas, and Naples, Texas, voted on similar ordinances that declare abortion as murder and prohibit the abortion industry from conducting business within their city jurisdictions. The ordinances do not penalize women who seek or undergo abortions.

“While Austin’s pro-abortion expenditures do not violate the letter of Senate Bill 22, they do in fact violate 2A Texas Penal Code article 1192 (1961), which prohibits ‘furnish[ing] the means for procuring an abortion knowing the purpose intended,’ Texas Right to Life adds.

Aimee Arrambide, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said the funding is “a creative way for Austin to make sure its community has access to abortion healthcare.”

Campbell, an emergency room physician, and prolife advocates argue abortion is not healthcare, and there are free and low-cost programs that taxpayers already fund designed to help women and children lead healthy lives.

Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, who sponsored the amendment to the budget, said she did so “based on what our community needs.” Garza says she views abortion as an equity issue, which directly affects her constituents who are primarily lower-income Latinos.

This article was first published by The Center Square.

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