Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas (PPGT) said Tuesday it will stop performing abortions in its Lubbock clinic in the wake of an ordinance approved by voters that declared the city a “Sanctuary City for the Unborn.”
The ordinance, which took effect Tuesday, June 1, was approved by the citizens of Lubbock on May 1, and states abortion is now illegal within the city’s limits.
Ken Lambrecht, CEO of PPGT, said in a statement reported by Everything Lubbock, that “[a]bortion services will be provided when legally permissible.” He went on:
Due to the controversial ordinance passed on May 1, Lubbock residents are currently required to travel to access a safe, legal abortion. This ban on abortions provides no exemptions, even in cases of rape and incest. The ban on abortion violates patients’ constitutional right to an abortion and we’re in court to block this ban for Lubbock patients.
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas filed a federal lawsuit against the city following the approval of the ordinance.
“The Constitution of the United States guarantees the right to have an abortion,” the complaint stated and continued:
But as of June 1, 2021, the City of Lubbock will prohibit and prevent the exercise of that right through the passage of its Ordinance Outlawing Abortion Within the City of Lubbock, Declaring Lubbock a Sanctuary City for the Unborn …
Plaintiffs bring this action to enjoin the City from maintaining in force, enforcing, or giving legal effect to the Ordinance and to declare the Ordinance invalid under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Texas law.
The City of Lubbock, however, vowed to defend the ordinance in court.
Lubbock became the largest city in the United States to declare itself a “sanctuary city for the unborn,” the 26th in the nation to outlaw abortion.
The ordinance states:
It shall be unlawful for any person to procure or perform an abortion of any type and at any stage of pregnancy in the City of Lubbock, Texas … It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion that occurs in the City of Lubbock, Texas.
On Friday, Judge James Wesley Hendrix of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, “expressed reservations about the scope of his authority” over the ordinance, reported the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
Hendrix did not immediately issue a ruling after he heard oral arguments about whether his court had jurisdiction over the case.
A letter obtained by Breitbart News from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinance does not violate the law because a new bill, SB 8, recently signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott (R), “clarifies that Lubbock’s ordinance is not preempted.”
While SB 8 does not take effect until September 1, Paxton wrote, “SB 8 is relevant even before its effective date.”
“Under Texas law, when a later-enacted statute clarifies the meaning of earlier statutes, it is ‘highly persuasive,’ even if it does not technically control,” he observed.
Attorneys for the city of Lubbock asked to have the lawsuit thrown out, arguing the city cannot be sued because it would not be a party to any civil lawsuits generated by the ordinance.
As Dickson explained, the ordinance contains two “enforcement mechanisms,” one public and one private.
“While the public enforcement mechanism is dependent upon the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the private enforcement mechanism is immediately enforceable,” he states. “It is not reliant on the overturning of Roe v. Wade.”
The ordinance provides the private enforcement mechanism by stating:
Any person, corporation, or entity that commits an unlawful act … other than the mother of the unborn child that has been aborted, shall be liable in tort to the unborn child’s mother, father, grandparents, siblings and half-siblings. The person or entity that committed the unlawful act shall be liable to each surviving relative of the aborted unborn child for: (a) Compensatory damages, including damages for emotional distress; (b) Punitive damages; and (c) Costs and attorneys’ fees.
Lubbock’s mayor and city council considered the ordinance after sufficient signatures were gathered from the city’s citizens to allow for a council vote. The council ultimately voted 7-0 against the ordinance, reasoning that the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade is considered by many to be the “law of the land.”
However, the Initiative and Referendum process allowed for Lubbock residents to get the ordinance on the ballot and to vote on it themselves.
Mark Lee Dickson, director of Right to Life of East Texas and founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn initiative, posted to Facebook in May:
This lawsuit is frivolous and directly foreclosed by the Fifth Circuit’s ruling in Okpalobi v. Foster. The federal courts have no ability to prevent private litigants from suing abortion providers under a duly enacted law, and there is nothing a federal court can do to stop private citizens from suing to enforce this ordinance.
“The city-wide abortion ban will take effect on June 1st, regardless of what happens in this lawsuit, and any person who aids or abets an abortion in Lubbock will be facing immediate lawsuits,” Dickson continued. “Planned Parenthood should conduct itself accordingly.”
Planned Parenthood began performing abortions at its Lubbock facility on April 15.
“Because the Lubbock Ordinance that outlaws abortion was passed after abortions were offered in Lubbock, this makes Lubbock the first city in the nation to pass an ordinance outlawing abortion in a city where abortions are already being committed,” Dickson noted.
Planned Parenthood said its Lubbock facility will remain open for other services.
The case is Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services v. City of Lubbock, Texas, No. 5:21-cv-114 in United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.