Lubbock voters will decide Saturday if the West Texas city will become the largest “sanctuary city for the unborn”

A banner supporting a proposed city ordinance that would ban abortions inside Lubbock city limits hangs from Southcrest Baptist Church on April 27, in Lubbock. (Credit: Justin Rex for The Texas Tribune)
A banner supporting a proposed city ordinance that would ban abortions inside Lubbock city limits hangs from Southcrest Baptist Church on April 27, in Lubbock. (Credit: Justin Rex for The Texas Tribune)

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Local voters will decide Saturday if Lubbock becomes the state’s next “sanctuary city for the unborn.”

The election could make the West Texas city a test case for a burgeoning movement that began in the East Texas town of Waskom and has since prompted some two dozen cities to try to outlaw abortions. Nearly all of them are in Texas, but Lubbock is the largest and the first that is home to an abortion provider — Planned Parenthood, which opened a clinic to offer birth control and screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted infections last fall. The clinic began providing abortions this month.

“They’re murdering babies here in our city,” said Jim Baxa, with West Texas for Life, an anti-abortion organization. “We need to stop that.”

Abortion rights advocates say the proposed ordinance amounts to an extreme ban that is out of step with the views held by a majority of polled Texans, who support some allowances for abortions, like in cases of rape or incest.

But the vote has also pit Lubbock’s hardline conservative base and large churches against the City Council and a former GOP precinct chair, who say battles over abortion access are best fought at the state and federal levels. City Council members, several of whom have said they oppose abortion, say the proposed ordinance could be challenged in court, teeing up a costly legal fight.

“Taxpayers are being used as pawns essentially to have this legal battle at their expense,” said Aurora Farthing, the former GOP precinct chair who started a political action committee urging residents to vote against the proposed ordinance.

The May election is unusual: Lubbock’s citywide officials are typically voted on in even-numbered years, and the proposed abortion-related ordinance is the first citizen-led ballot item since a 2013 recall election, the city secretary’s office said.