A showdown over abortion is brewing in west Texas as Planned Parenthood moves ahead with plans to open a clinic in Lubbock — and pro-life groups mobilize to stop it.
Several hundred people gathered Tuesday outside city hall to rally for a “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinance, which would ban abortions within city limits, after three state legislators asked Mayor Dan Pope “to take all necessary actions to prevent them [Planned Parenthood] from opening.”
“The battlefield to protect the unborn has shifted from the state to the local arena in recent years,” said an Aug. 25 letter signed by Republican state Sen. Charles Perry and state Reps. Dustin Burrows and John Frullo. “For that reason, passing an ordinance designating Lubbock as a Sanctuary City for the Unborn will help to continue the Texas belief that life begins at conception, while also protecting the safety of mothers.”
The pushback comes with Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas planning to open a health center in Lubbock before the end of the year offering birth control, STD screenings and annual health checks, with surgical and medication abortions “available at a later date.”
“In light of the history of harassment by extremists opposed to Planned Parenthood’s mission, it is our ongoing policy to not comment on health center projects for security reasons until they are completed,” Planned Parenthood said in a July 30 notice. “Additional information, including health center opening date, location, and list of health services, will be shared when finalized.”
Fourteen small towns in Texas have passed the sanctuary ordinance since Waskom became the first in June 2019, but Lubbock would be the largest community by far to do so, said Mark Lee Dickson, director of Right to Life of East Texas and founder of the “sanctuary city for the unborn” movement.
“What started in Waskom, a city of 2,189, is now being considered in Lubbock,” Mr. Dickson said. “Not only is the act of cities outlawing abortion becoming more and more common, it has become a reasonable solution for cities who want to be free from unborn children ever being murdered in their cities.”
There are currently no abortion providers in Lubbock. Only three or four cities in Texas still offer abortions as clinics shuttered following the passage of a law with restrictions such as requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, which was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2016.
Gracie Gomez, chair of the Lubbock County Democratic Party, said supporters of legal abortion would “do what it takes” to fight the push for a sanctuary ordinance, including bringing in the American Civil Liberties Union.
“That’s the thing that they don’t get: making abortion illegal with these sanctuary cities in no way eliminates abortion. It only puts women’s lives and health at risk,” Ms. Gomez said. “We have to ask the question, if they’re so pro-life, why do the lives of these women not matter?”
She said the sanctuary ordinances “are illegal, and they know that,” although so far none of the measures has been overturned in court.
In May, the ACLU of Texas withdrew a lawsuit against seven sanctuary cities after they agreed to remove language referring to certain pro-choice groups as “criminal entities,” but three abortion-assistance groups sued Mr. Dickson in June for defamation for calling them criminals.
The Thomas More Society countered in August with a lawsuit arguing that abortion remains a criminal offense in Texas because the state law was never repealed after the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
So far the city council has not taken up the sanctuary ordinance, but Mr. Dickson said he hopes to see the proposal on the agenda before the end of the month.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Mr. Pope warned residents during public comment to stick to items on the agenda, but Texas Tech student Katherine Cochran veered off script anyway after first addressing the city’s novel coronavirus response.
“I implore you my representatives just to recognize another potential disaster, and that is the disaster of Planned Parenthood potentially coming into the city limits,” Ms. Cochran said before being told to stop. “Please consider the sanctuary city ordinance. Please put the ordinance on the agenda for next time.”