Lawsuit seeks to block Lubbock’s ordinance aimed at outlawing abortions

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Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas sued the city of Lubbock on Monday over a voter-approved “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinance that seeks to outlaw abortions in the West Texas city’s limits.

The ordinance — which the lawsuit says is unconstitutional — was passed by local voters in May over the opposition of City Council members who warned it could not be enforced and would prompt a costly legal fight.

The lawsuit was filed in a federal district court and seeks to stop the abortion ban from taking effect on June 1.

Some two dozen cities have sought to ban abortions in their limits. Most of them have been in Texas but Lubbock is the largest and the first to have an abortion provider — making it a legal test case for the burgeoning “sanctuary city for the unborn” movement. Planned Parenthood opened a clinic to offer birth control and other services there last year, and began providing abortions this spring.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas previously sued seven East Texas towns that passed similar measures, but those cities weren’t home to abortion providers and had differently worded ordinances. The lawsuit was dropped.

The Lubbock ordinance would not be enforced by the government unless the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, or made other changes to abortion laws. It instead relies on private citizens filing lawsuits. Family members of a person who has an abortion can sue the provider or someone who assists them in getting an abortion, like by driving them to a clinic, under the ordinance.

The ordinance does not make an exception for people pregnant as a result of rape or incest.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of the Legislature passing what abortion rights advocates say is one of the most extreme abortion restrictions nationwide, which would ban abortions as early as six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. That bill, similar to the Lubbock ordinance, allows for private citizens to sue abortion providers and those who assist someone getting an abortion in violation of the law. They would not need to have a connection to the provider or to someone who received an abortion to sue.

That legislation is headed to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott, who has signaled he will sign it into law.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court, also announced that it would hear a case — concerning a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks — that could lead to new limits on abortion rights.

Disclosure: Planned Parenthood has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.