AUSTIN (KXAN) — Members of the Austin City Council took actions Thursday morning that they said would help protect reproductive rights.
During a news conference, Council Member José “Chito” Vela announced council unanimously approved the GRACE Act during a special-called meeting. This vote happened after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision late last month to overturn Roe v. Wade, which gave states the power to decide on abortion access.
“It’s not enough. I wish we could do more to protect abortion rights, to protect reproductive rights here in Austin, but I think it’s as much as we can do,” Vela said. “We will continue to look for other avenues to try to fight for abortion rights.”
Council Member Vanessa Fuentes said this series of resolutions approved Thursday are part of a national movement of other cities throughout the country working to pass similar measures.
“While our federal government continues to stay idle,” Fuentes said, “it’s up to us to put in the work and do everything possible to protect the communities that we care and represent.”
Several Democratic state lawmakers joined the news conference to share their support for council’s resolutions.
The four resolutions passed by council
One resolution amends the city code to prohibit discrimination based on reproductive health in regard to housing and employment.
Another resolution limits using city funds for gathering evidence about abortions and de-prioritizes enforcement of criminal laws surrounding abortion.
A third resolution directs the city manager to explore the idea of a public education program on long-term birth control, including vasectomies. This resolution also ensures health insurance for city workers and their spouses covers low-cost birth control.
The fourth resolution directs the city manager to review and make recommendations on benefits for city employees to support access to reproductive health services that aren’t lawfully available in Texas anymore.
According to a FAQ document Vela posted last month, the GRACE Act is only a set of recommendations, because city council can’t dictate how employees deal with a criminal case under Texas law.