Judge dismisses Planned Parenthood challenge to Lubbock's abortion ban

People praying at abortion clinic Credit Diocese of Saginaw CC BY ND 20 CNA Pro-life prayer outside an abortion clinic. | Diocese of Saginaw.

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood against a Texas city over new pro-life policies, saying Planned Parenthood does not have standing to sue the city. 

Citizens in Lubbock had voted in early May to declare the city a “Sanctuary City for the Unborn,” drawing praise from the Catholic diocese’s bishop. 

The ordinance declares performing or aiding in an abortion unlawful, but will not be enforced by the government until the Supreme Court overturns its 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide, Roe v. Wade, as well as the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling which built on Roe

Private citizens, especially family members of aborted babies, are allowed to bring lawsuits against people or businesses who violate the ordinance by performing or aiding in in abortion; mothers of aborted children are exempt from the penalties under the ordinance. The ordinance took effect June 1. 

Planned Parenthood, which opened an abortion clinic in Lubbock last year, sued to block the ordinance in mid-May, calling it “unconstitutional.” The City of Lubbock said in a statement that it intends to “vigorously defend this ordinance and looks forward to presenting that defense in court.”

On June 1, the federal judge ruled that the ordinance allows for private citizens to sue others for violating the ordinance, rather than relying on the government to enforce the ordinance. As a result, the judge ruled that he could not prevent private parties from filing civil lawsuits in state court, the Texas Tribune reported. 

The enforcement structure inherent to the Lubbock ordinance has not yet been thoroughly tested in the courts, the Texas Tribune noted. A newly-passed Texas state law, which is set to take effect in September, uses a similar method. 

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that Lubbock, with a population of more than 250,000, is the largest city to adopt the sanctuary city policy, as well as the first to declare the ban while having an abortion provider within its boundaries. 

Other, smaller cities in Texas have adopted similar ordinances. Planned Parenthood has also attempted to sue those smaller cities, but those lawsuits also have since been dropped. 

The Lubbock ordinance makes it unlawful for any person to procure, perform, aid, or abet an abortion of any type and at any stage of pregnancy. No one can provide transportation to or from an abortion provider, give instructions of any kind regarding self-administered abortion, provide money for an abortion or the costs associated with procuring an abortion, or coerce a pregnant mother to have an abortion against her will. 

The Texas state Senate last month passed a ban on abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Gov. Greg Abbott signed the measure into law, and it is set to take effect in September. 

The Texas Catholic Conference supported the legislation. A May 3 message from executive director Jennifer Allmon encouraged Catholics in the state to contact their legislators in support of the bill.

The Texas law is already facing several legal challenges. While other states, such as South Carolina, have passed similar “heartbeat” abortion bans, pro-abortion groups have challenged the laws in courts. A federal district court judge in March blocked South Carolina’s law from going into effect.

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