Austin pushing to effectively decriminalize abortion ahead of ruling on Roe

Councilmember Chito Vela is proposing a resolution that would direct the city’s police department to make criminal enforcement, arrest and investigation of abortions its lowest priority and restrict city funds and city staff from being used to investigate, catalogue or report suspected abortions.

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“This is not an academic conversation. This is a very real conversation where people’s lives could be destroyed by these criminal prosecutions,” said Vela, who shared the details of the resolution first with POLITICO. “In Texas, you’re an adult at 17. We are looking at the prospect of a 17-year-old girl who has an unplanned pregnancy and is seeking an abortion [being] subjected to first-degree felony charges — up to 99 years in jail — and that’s just absolutely unacceptable.”

The state’s so-called trigger law, which would take effect 30 days after a Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe, includes the nation’s harshest criminal penalties on abortion and language vague enough that abortion-rights proponents believe it will not only be used to go after abortion providers but also criminalize people who end their own pregnancies with abortion pills. Last month, 26-year-old Lizelle Herrera was arrested and charged with murder in Rio Grande City, Texas after allegedly self-inducing an abortion, even though abortion is not currently a criminal offense in Texas.

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