Travis County court hears Pro-Life case suing Austin over abortion industry funding

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A civil district court in Travis County heard arguments in a case challenging a pro-abortion provision in the City of Austin’s 2020 budget.  Don Zimmerman v. City of Austin is brought by Pro-Life Austin resident and former Austin City Council member Don Zimmerman, who is arguing the city’s plans to fund abortion-related logistical services violate the Texas Constitution and Pro-Life state laws.

In September, Austin City Council announced their plan to add a line item to the city budget of $150,000 for logistical services related to women trying to get an abortion.  Various city council members explicitly stated that this was in response to cities across Texas declaring themselves as “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn” and the prohibition of direct taxpayer funding for abortion providers and their affiliates through Senate Bill 22, passed during the 86th Session of the Texas Legislature.  In doing this, the City of Austin has established themselves as a Sanctuary for the Abortion Industry.

The city says this funding is allowed even under SB 22 because the money is not going directly to abortion providers or their affiliates.  Rather, the money would be funneled to other anti-Life organizations like the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, the Bridge Collective ATX, and Fund Texas Choice, other defendants in the Zimmerman case.  The taxpayer dollars would be used to pay for logistics affiliated with a pregnant woman trying to have an abortion, such as transportation, lodging, and childcare.

Judge Jan Soifer presided over the case in the Travis County District Court.  Soifer has a significant pro-abortion record, being a former chair for the Travis County Democratic Party and herself serving as an attorney for a pro-abortion organization in the historic Hellerstedt case challenging Pro-Life legislation before the Supreme Court of the United States.

The attorney for the City of Austin argued that any application of Pro-Life laws that existed before Roe v. Wade would be unconstitutional.  Zimmerman’s attorney clarified that the court only enjoined unconstitutional applications of the law which still prohibits the assistance or procurement of an abortion.

Zimmerman argued the City of Austin’s budget violates a still valid provision in the Texas Penal Code, which prohibits “furnish[ing]the means for procuring an abortion knowing the purpose intended.”  The United States Supreme Court has not formally enjoined this law, and in fact, has long recognized that pregnant women do not have a constitutional right to taxpayer assistance in obtaining an abortion.  Additionally, withholding any sort of taxpayer subsidy does not constitute an “undue burden” on a pregnant woman trying to access an abortion.  

The main argument made in court by the City of Austin was that the lawsuit ought to be dismissed since there is no real expenditure in question and thus the case is merely speculative.  They argued that a lawsuit can only be brought by a citizen after the City of Austin approves a contract or grant for an entity that will receive the funding. Judge Soifer seemed to entertain this argument that would give the City of Austin a win, put any Pro-Life citizen at a significant disadvantage, and essentially kick the can down the road on this contentious case.

Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize the destruction of innocent human Life, even through indirect logistical means.  While Pro-Lifers wait for a decision from the district court judge as to whether this unethical funding of the abortion industry will be stopped, we fully realize this is just the beginning of this precedent-setting case.

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