Austin City Council passes GRACE Act to decriminalize abortion

The Austin City Council has voted to approve a resolution that would effectively decriminalize abortion in the city of Austin.

The Council voted to pass the "Guarding the Right to Abortion Care for Everyone" or GRACE Act in a special-called meeting Thursday.

The GRACE Act will "limit the use of City funds for collecting or maintaining information concerning abortions or other reproductive healthcare actions, and de-prioritizing enforcement of criminal laws concerning abortions and other reproductive healthcare actions," according to the action notes from Thursday's meeting.

Councilman and Attorney Jose ‘Chito’ Vela, the lead sponsor, brought the resolution forward shortly after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month. The ruling means that Texas' trigger law would go into effect soon, which bans abortions from the moment of fertilization. It criminalizes those who perform or assist in an abortion procedure.

Texas’ trigger law trumps the city of Austin's rules, but Vela says he is not trying to fight the state on this right now. "We are not legalizing abortion here in Austin, we cannot do that. We are simply as a city saying what do Austin taxpayers want to do with their money?" he said.

Supporters say the GOP does not have a track record of truly being pro-life.

"They come out and say they are going to take care of these children. We know they are lying about that. I’m 72 years old and I’ve seen what has happened here in the state of Texas," said Sabino ‘Pio’ Renteria, Austin City Council District Three.

Before the vote, several pro-life advocates spoke, expressing their opposition to the GRACE Act.

"Money could better be spent on pregnancy resource centers that could actually help women that are in need," said Mary Elizabeth Castle, senior policy advisor at Texas Values.

"HB 1280 completely protects unborn children from the tragedy of abortion," said Dr. Joe Pojman, executive director at Texas Alliance for Life.


Fox 7 Austin reached out to the Austin Police Department which said the department is still working through the resolution at this time. 

Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza’s office sent a statement regarding the GRACE Act:

"Our office supports the Austin City Council’s approval of the Grace Act, a resolution that recommends that APD make abortion-related investigations its lowest priority. Our office is focused on holding accountable people who commit acts of violence in our community.  Pulling resources away from our priorities and prosecuting people connected with personal healthcare decisions would be reckless and would make us less safe."

In addition to passing the GRACE Act, the Council also voted to approve a resolution directing City Manager Spencer Cronk to look into a public education program on long-term birth control and vasectomies and to ensure that health insurance for City employees and their spouses covers low-cost birth control and vasectomies.

City Manager Cronk has also been directed to evaluate and make recommendations on benefits to support City employees' "reasonable access to reproductive health care services that are no longer lawfully available in Texas".