EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) –  Protests broke out at City Hall after Mayor Oscar Leeser broke a tie of El Paso City Council members, voting down an ordinance that would have directed city leaders to create a policy on deprioritizing abortion investigations.

Shortly after Leeser cast his vote against the ordinance, members of the public who had gathered to share their opinions for or against the potential ordinance erupted.

Opponents of the ordinance cheered its failure, while supporters jeered the vote, left the room and began protesting outside City Hall.

The agenda item was authored by Rep. Alexsandra Annello and co-sponsored by Rep. Henry Rivera.

The item stated the following:

Discussion and action to direct the City Manager and City Attorney to create the appropriate Ordinance and/or City Policy which honors and protects the right of pregnant women/individuals, to include the following:

  • Taxpayer dollars will not be used frivolously for programs or efforts to criminalize women/individuals who seek an abortion.
  • City funds will not be used to solicit, catalog, report, or investigate reports of abortion.
  • Police should make investigating abortion their lowest priority.

This item comes after the Supreme Court of the United States recently ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade. This means in Texas, abortion would be banned 30 days after the Supreme Court’s decision and abortion providers could face a first-degree felony.

“We cannot do a lot in response to it, we are not saying we are legalizing abortion in this community. We cannot do that. The state does that. We are just saying we are not using El Paso tax dollars from this community to criminalize that act and create an unfunded mandate for police officers,” Annello said.

About 100 people on both sides of the abortion debate signed up to speak during public comment at the July 5 City Council work session where this item was set to be discussed.

Many people, in favor and other against against the item filled council chambers with signs and shirts reflecting either pro-choice or pro-life stances.

As people spoke during public comment, people who agreed with speakers cheered and applauded speakers on both sides of the debate.

City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said despite the way the council votes, state and federal law take precedence.

El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen during the meeting said he was “not in favor” of an item seeking to deprioritize abortion investigations.

Some district attorneys across Texas have said they would not prosecute those crimes related to abortion. KTSM has repeatedly asked El Paso County District Attorney Yvonne Rosales if she planned to seek prosecution of those abortion-related crimes in El Paso. She has yet to respond.

Dora Oaxaca, the El Paso County Democratic Party Chair, during public comment called out Police Chief Allen for his comments and said he should not “police women based on his personal views.” Oaxaca also called on DA Rosales for going to the meeting and leaving without making a public statement on whether her office plans to prosecute. Oaxaca asked council members to consider clarifying with the district attorney before voting on this item.

This story will be updated.

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