Texas Pro-Lifers Sue to Stop Austin From Paying for Abortions With Their Tax Dollars

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jun 4, 2020   |   3:49PM   |   Austin, TX

Texas pro-lifers filed a second lawsuit against the city of Austin last week after city leaders skirted a state law prohibiting local governments from funding abortion groups.

The Statesman reports John Seago, legislative director of Texas Right to Life, filed the lawsuit, arguing that Austin violated state laws when it budgeted $150,000 to help pay for transportation, lodging and day care for mothers seeking abortions. Attorney Jonathan Mitchell is representing him.

“If taxpayer funds go to private entities, that expenditure has to satisfy a public purpose,” said Rob Henneke, general counsel for the pro-life Texas Public Policy Foundation. “The city as a political subdivision of Texas does not have the public purpose to kill or facilitate the termination of unborn children.”

In the lawsuit, Seago argues that the money budgeted for abortion assistance does not benefit the community or serve a public purpose, according to the report. The lawsuit also points to pre-Roe v. Wade laws still on the books that prohibit taxpayer-funded abortions and abortion-related services.

An Austin spokesperson told the news outlet that they are prepared to defend the city’s actions.

Last year, Austin resident and former city council member Don Zimmerman filed a similar lawsuit challenging the spending plan. A judge ruled against him in January, but Zimmerman is appealing.

Zimmerman’s lawsuit argues that the funding violates the new law and a decades-old Texas statute that prohibits anyone from “furnish[ing] the means for procuring an abortion knowing the purpose intended.”

“It has long been established that women seeking to abort their pregnancies have no constitutional right to taxpayer assistance, and that the withholding of taxpayer subsidies does not constitute an ‘undue burden,’” the lawsuit states.

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In September, the Austin City Council voted 10-1 in favor of giving $150,000 to pro-abortion groups that help women get abortions by giving them money for transportation, lodging, day care and other needs. These groups include the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, the Bridge Collective and Fund Texas Choice.

The pro-abortion city leaders claimed that their budget measure is not “covered by the prohibitions in Senate Bill 22, because they do not fall within the statutory definition of ‘abortion provider’ or ‘affiliate,’” according to Zimmerman’s lawsuit.

Last year, the Texas legislature passed a law to ensure that no taxpayer funding directly or indirectly pays for unborn babies’ abortion deaths in Texas. Signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, the law prohibits local governments from funding or contracting with abortion providers and their affiliates.

State Sen. Donna Campbell, who sponsored the pro-life law, previously said the city council’s plan definitely violates the “spirit” of the law.

She told the Texas Tribune that she wasn’t “surprised the City of Austin would manipulate [the law] to use taxpayer dollars to pay for transportation and lodging to those seeking an abortion.”

Because of the budget measure, Austin taxpayers likely are helping to fund late-term abortions on viable unborn babies. According to KADN, if an Austin woman wants a late-term abortion, which is illegal in Texas, the money could help her travel to another state where they are legal.

The Austin City Council has a history of supporting abortion. In 2018, it approved a “sweetheart deal” for Planned Parenthood by leasing a property to it for just $1 a year for the next 20 years, according to Texas Right to Life.