LUBBOCK, Texas — On Saturday, Lubbock voted in favor of adopting an ordinance that would outlaw abortion within city limits and declare the town a “Sanctuary City for the Unborn.”
The ordinance makes Lubbock the largest city to outlaw abortion in the country. In all, 22 other cities in Texas and two cities in Nebraska passed similar ordinances. Before Lubbock, the largest city to pass a similar ordinance was Big Spring with an estimated population of 28,187 people.
However, Lubbock is the only town with an active abortion clinic to pass the ordinance. Planned Parenthood opened a clinic in the city in October 2020 and began offering abortions April 15.
According to final unofficial election results, 62% percent voted for the ordinance and 37% percent voted against it.
The ordinance declares abortion in city limits “at all times and at all stages of pregnancy” an act of murder.
However, under the ordinance, an act doesn’t qualify as an abortion if it is done to save the life of the mother, remove a fetus whose death was the result of a miscarriage or remove an ectopic pregnancy.
After early voting results came in, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas issued a statement and said it would continue to “fight to protect” the rights of Lubbock residents.
“The ACLU has a long history of challenging unconstitutional abortion bans and will continue to fight to protect the fundamental rights of the people of Lubbock,” Drucilla Tigner, Policy & Advocacy Strategist at the ACLU of Texas, said.
In the statement, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas said the Lubbock clinic would remain open and would follow legal restrictions as required.
The push to make Lubbock a “Sanctuary City for the Unborn” began after Planned Parenthood announced in August it would open a clinic in the city sometime in late 2020. The nonprofit previously had a Lubbock clinic until it closed in 2013.
A month later, State Senator Charles Perry held a news conference at a Lubbock church and said he was working to get an ordinance passed that would make conducting abortions in the city punishable by a fine of $2,000.
Perry said the ordinance, which was drafted by Right to Life East Texas Director Mark Lee Dickson, would also create standing for family members of an aborted fetus to sue abortion providers for civil damages.
After Perry offered a rough draft ordinance for the Lubbock City Council to consider, the city hired Houston-based law firm Olson & Olson, LLP to investigate the possibility of issuing the ordinance.
On October 14, the city released a statement and said the proposed ordinance was contrary to Texas law. On the same day, the city also announced that a petition to consider the ordinance had been submitted to the council.
The petition had enough verified signatures to force a vote by city council on whether to adopt or reject the ordinance. A meeting was held November 17 and the council voted 7-0 to reject the proposed ordinance.
After the vote, the committee behind the petition filed a request to put the ordinance to a vote and in December 2020, the city council approved a May 1, 2021 election date. According to estimates, the special election cost the city between $160,000 and $200,000 to hold.
In early 2020, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against seven Texas towns that passed similar ordinances outlawing abortion. The focus of the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of two pro-choice groups in the state – was solely on the ordinances’ designation of organizations assisting women in getting abortions as “criminal organizations.”
The ACLU later dropped the lawsuit after several cities amended their original ordinances to remove language declaring specific organizations as “criminal,” while still preserving a ban on abortion.