Portland walks back Texas boycott as response to abortion ban

2 hours ago

Two weeks after Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler garnered nationwide attention with his plan to boycott Texas following the state’s dramatic curtailing of abortion access, the council is ready to vote on it.

But the proposal, which the council will consider Wednesday, has shifted shape considerably since the city nabbed national headlines. The city has ditched the two meatiest parts of the proposal — a boycott on city business with Texas and a ban on employee travel to the Lone Star state. Instead, city officials are considering setting aside $200,000 that will go to organizations “that deliver programs and services related to reproductive healthcare.”

The ordinance does not specify where these organizations should be located.

Days after Texas passed legislation that banned abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, the council announced the city would be withdrawing its business over what they called an “attack on the reproductive rights, freedom, and autonomy of people across the country.” City spokesperson Heather Hafer said the city had purchased just under $35 million in goods and services from Texas over the past five years.

But the press release appeared to have come long before the policy making. City officials scrambled the last two weeks to nail down how such a boycott would work in practice, while pro-choice advocates raised concerns that the boycott was not the right tact, as Willamette Week reported. The editorial board of the OregonLive lambasted the city for “pointless preening,” focusing resources on a problem 2,000 miles away instead of the multitude of crises the city faces.

The mayor’s office went back to the drawing board. Late Tuesday afternoon, the city released the proposal, which would set aside $200,000 in General Fund money, but no boycott.

“The Portland City Council wishes to manifest its opposition to the Texas abortion ban, and its support for those who are affected by it, by ensuring that those who seek to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion have access to certified healthcare providers in safe and secure facilities,” the ordinance states.

The resolution also directs the council to send a letter to the Oregon Congressional delegation urging them to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, federal legislation that would preserve people’s right to access abortion, and a letter to the Biden Administration supporting the Department of Justice’s challenge to the Texas law. Finally, the resolution directs the City Attorney’s Office to assist in challenging the law “at the most effective and strategically valuable opportunity.”

This story may be updated.

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