Mar 17, 2023 - Politics

San Antonio abortion vote avoids legal challenge — for now

Illustration of a campaign button with a gavel on it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Texas Supreme Court decided San Antonio voters will get a say on a charter amendment decriminalizing abortion after it brought a legal challenge from an anti-abortion group to a halt.

Driving the news: Any challenges to the amendment — known as Proposition A on the May 6 city ballot — must wait until after the election, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 opinion issued Friday.

Why it matters: San Antonio will be the first Texas city to vote on protecting abortion, organizers have said, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year, triggering a state law that prohibits abortion in Texas.

Catch up fast: The amendment made it onto the ballot after organizers gathered more than the required 20,000 signatures.

  • The abortion provision is the centerpiece of the legal challenge. But Proposition A would also decriminalize low-level marijuana possession, ban police chokeholds and no-knock warrants, and expand a cite-and-release program.

Reality check: In practice, the city already follows most of the measures in Proposition A. But to enshrine such policies in the city charter would run contrary to state law, city attorney Andy Segovia has said.

What they're saying: The Texas Supreme Court’s decision adhered "to our longstanding commitment to avoid undue interference with elections," Justice Jane Bland wrote.

  • "Our team spent countless hours on research, we know we are well within our legal right," organizers behind Proposition A wrote on Twitter after the ruling.

The other side: "We are tremendously disappointed in the Texas Supreme Court's decision … despite obvious violations of state law," said Amy O'Donnell, the communications director for Texas Alliance for Life, which sought the legal challenge, in a statement.

  • Texas Alliance for Life last month argued the amendment should be separated into single-issue parts, rather than clumped together in one question to voters. They also sought to move the amendment to the November election instead of May.

Of note: The court's ruling doesn't determine whether Proposition A is legal or whether its opponents have legal standing. The opinion only states the election should move forward as planned.

  • The court could rule on legal challenges after the election.

What's next: The Texas Alliance for Life will now focus its efforts on mobilizing anti-abortion voters against Proposition A, O'Donnell said.


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