The entirely white male council of Waskom in Texas has voted to make the small town a “sanctuary city for the unborn”.
The five men on the town’s council voted this week to pass legislation known as an ordinance, which declared Roe v Wade, the landmark supreme court decision which legalized abortion, “unconstitutional”.
The move, which is itself unconstitutional, comes after a raft of abortion bans have passed in states from Missouri to Ohio.
Restrictions on abortion disproportionately affect black and poor women, who are more likely to seek abortions and less likely to have the resources to obtain one out-of-state.
Despite these bans, abortion remains legal in all 50 US states, and will do so unless Roe v Wade is struck down.
Waskom city council voted for the ordinance in spite of the city attorney warning the ordinance was unconstitutional, and that the town could not afford to lose a lawsuit over it if it was challenged in court.
“We decided to take things into our own hands, and that we have got to do something to protect our cities and to protect the unborn children,” said Mark Lee Dickson, a representative of Right to Life of East Texas which pushed for the bill, according to local news station KETK.
Women in the US have a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy until roughly 24 weeks, or when a fetus can survive outside the womb. Though the raft of new anti-abortion laws are unconstitutional, those who support them hope they will eventually be used to challenge Roe v Wade in the supreme court, which now leans conservative.
Abortion is a common and safe healthcare procedure. One in four American women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Texas has a high rate of maternal mortality, and has struggled to collect data on the number of women who die during childbirth.
In a statement, the pro-choice group Naral said: “Every Texan, regardless of income or geographical location deserves access to the full range of reproductive healthcare, including abortion. The Waskom ordinance is a dangerous attempt to undermine Roe v. Wade and disregards the fact that the majority of Texans believe abortion should remain legal.”
Waskom is a town of about 2,100 people on the Texas-Louisiana border. There are no abortion clinics in Waskom.
Dickson said the ordinance was inspired by the recent passage of an abortion ban in Louisiana. Dickson, who lives in Longview, Texas, said the law would prevent abortion clinics from opening there.