Much of the budget just passed by the City of San Antonio for fiscal year 2024 is good for our city. Over the past few months, my office fought to get the funding for the 100 additional police officers that will now be patrolling the streets of San Antonio. We also got the funding to provide the police with bulletproof glass for their vehicles so we can keep our brave men and women safe while on patrol. Further, we were able to secure an unprecedented amount of money in this budget for infrastructure for District 10 and the other districts. And regarding homeless encampments, the budget now gives the city money to meet its commitment to clean up all identified encampments within two weeks. Because of this, and up until 10 days ago, I was ready to vote “yes” on the budget.
But at the 11th hour, several of my council colleagues proposed a budget amendment of $500,000 for what they named a Reproductive Justice Fund. They suggested funding this through additional CPS revenue received by the city. The City of San Antonio has already dedicated more than $16 million towards women’s health in the coming year. That fact, combined with public comments made by various council members regarding which organizations should get a piece of the $500,000, made clear that the intent of the Reproductive Justice Fund is to give money to groups who will pay for San Antonians to travel to other states to have abortions. This is where I have a problem.
Make no mistake about it, this is not about my feelings on the sensitive topic of abortion. Nor should it be about any of the other council members’ positions on the issue. This is about the role of city government. This is about what our city government should and should not be spending your tax dollars on.
Ahead of the budget vote, I proposed an amendment that would allow the $500,000 to go towards women’s health care but restrict the funds from going to organizations that pay the travel and related expenses for those seeking an out-of-state abortion. My proposal was voted down by my council colleagues. I then requested that we have separate votes on the Reproductive Justice Fund and the remainder of the budget. After my council colleagues rejected that request, I chose to abstain from the final passage of the budget.
This is not about culture wars or Republicans versus Democrats. This is about you, the San Antonio taxpayer, and how our city government is supposed to be serving you. The San Antonio City Charter lists many areas in which city government action is warranted, but nowhere does it reference allocating money for out-of-state travel for abortion.
City Council should be focused on our highest priorities, including public safety, fixing our streets and sidewalks and cleaning up homeless encampments. Earlier this year, the city conducted a survey of residents about the issues that are most important to them. It should be no surprise that addressing homelessness, rising crime and infrastructure were at the top of the list. Funding abortion access was nowhere to be found, and I don’t believe any San Antonian, regardless of their position on abortion, wants their tax dollars to be used to send people out of state to receive abortions.
The issue of abortion is a state issue in which City Council should not be involved, and getting involved exposes the city to some legal liability, as our city attorney admitted. As Mayor Ron Nirenberg said during the fight on Proposition A this past summer, we need to solve problems at the right level of government.
Some will say I should have overlooked this and just voted “yes” on the budget. Others will contend a “no” vote would have sent a stronger message. But my vote to abstain — all the while knowing this budget was going to pass — was my way of acknowledging all of the good that we fought for that is in the budget, while at the same time noting my objection to the blatant and improper use of your tax dollars.