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Published on June 12, 2024
Amarillo City Council Rejects Proposed Abortion Travel Ban, Upholding Reproductive RightsSource: Google Street View

In a move that challenges the surge of restrictive policies surrounding reproductive rights, the Amarillo City Council stood firm against a proposed abortion travel ban. Despite the pressure from anti-abortion activists and certain locals, the council voted widely to reject the ordinance which would have criminalized traveling on city roads for the purpose of obtaining an abortion out-of-state. According to the Texas Tribune, Amarillo Mayor Cole Stanley emphasized the city's limited authority, stating, "What you’re asking me to do, is put forward this ordinance and enact it into city law, that would exercise an authority I don’t believe I have."

The decision spotlighted Amarillo as the most significant conservative city in Texas to push back on these travel restrictions. The council rejected two versions of the ordinance by a 4-1 vote amidst a packed chamber filled with community members, many of whom erupted in cheers and applause at the announcement. Council member Don Tipps stood as the sole supporter of the proposition. Conversations about the ordinance have been ongoing since last fall when a slew of Texas locales passed similar bans, though experts and advocates continue to question their legality and constitutionality.

Public feedback during a lengthy city council meeting highlighted broad concerns. Comments ranged from the policy's potential impacts on local businesses to its probable violation of constitutional rights. In a noteworthy stance, Amarillo resident Michael Ford, self-identified as pro-life, argued on behalf of understanding and compassion over punishment, as he claimed, "I firmly believe that what women and families need most in crisis is love, compassion, and support, not the threat of public shame and humiliation," he told the Texas Tribune.

Amid the debate, the Potter-Randall County Medical Society released a grave statement, fearing the policy's impact on physician-patient interactions and the care providers could offer. Dr. Richard McKay, speaking for the society pointed out the complexities and dilemmas faced by medical professionals with regards to abortion, he shared with the Texas Tribune, his apprehensions, "I'm concerned that we will return to the horror stories I saw in the emergency room when ladies came in from having an abortion on the kitchen table."

Other Texas cities have passed similar ordinances, but Amarillo's rejection marks a significant dissent within a predominantly conservative region. This development indicates that the conversation around reproductive rights continues to be contentious, with local legislatures grappling with statewide policies and the principles of federal law. A group of residents who petitioned for the Amarillo ordinance will now consider taking the issue to voters in the upcoming fall elections.