GILMER, Texas – Gilmer is a small Texas town with a population of just over five thousand people, it's home of the East Texas Yamboree Festival and as of September, it's a safe haven for the unborn.
"This is a pro-life community, we do not want abortion providers coming here or abortion clinics coming here," Gilmer City Manager Greg Hutson told CBN News.
Over the summer Gilmer council members joined a growing list who have signed an ordinance banning abortion.
"It makes a stand and says, 'It's illegal to come here and provide those services,'" Hutson said.
Preparing for a Post-Roe vs. Wade America
While many of the towns passing the bans don't currently have abortion clinics, Katherine Pitcher of Texas Right to Life says it's about being prepared for the future.
"Even though abortions may not be happening in these towns that have already passed the ordinance, they are still looking towards a nation and a state that is post-Roe. So once Roe vs. Wade is overturned the most likely thing that is going to happen is that the Supreme Court is going to send the question back to the states, which is where abortion was before Roe vs. Wade. There were states that had abortion legal and states that didn't. So once that happens, we want Texas to be prepared," Pitcher explained.
Sanctuary Ordinances = Criminal Prosecution of Abortion Providers
If Roe is overturned, these bans would be enforceable. The ordinance being pitched to town councils across Texas declares abortion "murder" and bans the procedure within city limits. It does not penalize women who seek or undergo abortions.
"So the criminal provisions of the ordinance, the reason that's a good deterrent currently to an abortion provider moving into city limits, is [that] the ordinance goes into effect immediately. And so what the city is saying is, 'Past this date, we have the intent in the future to go back and prosecute, criminally every abortion which has occurred since the ordinance passed,'" Pitcher said.
Silent Too Long
"We've been silent too long and if we, under municipal law, can do what we're doing, let's do it. If anything, you're just making a statement, making a stand, and if we can't do that, why are we in the battle in the first place?" questioned Hutson.
As town councils across Texas consider the abortion ban, pro-life activists hope the local support will get the attention of the state.
"What we saw this last legislative session is that any effective change for the pro-life cause is going to come from the citizens. Our elected officials respond most to citizens using their voices," said Pitcher.
Pro-Choice Groups Push Back
There have been no legal challenges to the bans yet, but there has been push-back. Over the summer the Austin city council approved $150,000 to cover costs for women seeking abortions who live at least 100 miles from an abortion facility. And pro-choice groups NARAL and the Lilith Fund recently placed a large billboard outside of the first city to pass the abortion ban, it reads "Abortion is Freedom."
Still, one-by-one, more cities are getting on board, enthusiastic to make a stand for the unborn.
"We talk about giving human rights to Happy the elephant, that's an article in New York. 'Orangutan with Human Rights to Begin New Life in Florida,' what does that say about the unborn child, when we're going to give animals more rights than that unborn child. I personally cannot be a part of that, without standing up and saying something," Hutson said.