Lubbock, Texas, Outlaws Abortions, Pro-Life Org Calls It Largest 'Sanctuary City for the Unborn'

About two-thirds of Lubbock, Texas, residents voted ban abortion procedures in the city to become what supporters call the country's largest "sanctuary city for the unborn," on Saturday, likely setting up a lengthy legal battle with city's newly opened Planned Parenthood clinic.

Lubbock's unofficial vote on the ordinance to outlaw abortions passed by a margin of 62 to 38 percent, culminating a year-long effort from anti-abortion activists who amassed enough signatures to bring the ordinance to the city council. But city officials, many of whom vehemently oppose abortion, voted down the "sanctuary city" ordinance last year over conflicts with state law and Supreme Court rulings, including Roe v. Wade. But Lubbock residents went ahead with the vote, and it is now the 26th U.S. municipality to outlaw abortion procedures within city limits—and the first that currently has an abortion clinic.

Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope said the ordinance will likely go in effect by June 1 and he was "encouraged" by the "passionate debate" the ordinance inspired for months leading up to Saturday's vote.

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Lubbock, home to about a quarter-million residents and Texas Tech University, approved the ordinance which states: "It shall be unlawful for any person to procure or perform an abortion of any type and at any stage of pregnancy in the City of Lubbock, Texas.… It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion that occurs in the City of Lubbock, Texas."

The Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn group that spearheaded Saturday's vote operates using social media-based, grassroots campaigns. Signing and sharing petitions to Facebook are built into the group's efforts, with adjacent advise such as "pray for your city" and "share good articles" online. The group's website lists several cities including Odessa where they hope to outlaw abortion next and it describes the Texas state capital, Austin, as a "city of death."

Women who receive or seek an abortion procedure are not directly "penalized" under the ordinance. But it does allow their family members to sue the provider and anyone who helped in the process, including someone who assisted with something as simple as driving them to an abortion clinic. A "life-of-the-mother" exception under affirmative defense is written into the ordinance to protect doctors who perform the procedure.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, which also provides STD testing, birth control and pregnancy health advice, just began abortion services after opening the first Lubbock clinic last year. The vote comes as Republican state lawmakers push for a six-week abortion ban, HB 1515, which many pro-choice groups say is unconstitutional.

A Planned Parenthood spokesperson responded to Saturday's vote in a statement saying, "We are committed to expanding access to abortion and will provide abortion services when possible in Lubbock…our doors are open and we will continue to advocate for our patients, no matter what."

The Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn group has for years spearheaded a city-by-city campaign to ban abortions locally in order to avoid federal legal challenges stemming from the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. Abilene, Centerville and Odessa are Texas towns and cities where the group is hoping to get another "tailored" abortion-ban ordinance up for a vote. The group also lists Naples, Florida, as the next potential "sanctuary city" to ban abortion.

Its ordinance proposals in the smaller Texas towns of Omaha and Mineral Wells were recently rejected by voters. Pro-choice and civil liberties groups say they are preparing a court battle over the Lubbock ordinance passage.

"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," said Drucilla Tigner, issuing a statement Saturday which implied an impending lawsuit.

Newsweek reached out to Planned Parenthood for Texas as well as the Lubbock mayor's office for additional remarks Monday morning.

anti-abortion protest pro-life
Pro-life demonstrators take part in the 47th annual "March for Life" in Washington, D.C., on January 24, 2020. Lubbock, Texas' unofficial vote on the ordinance to outlaw abortions passed by a margin of 62 to 38 percent, culminating a year-long effort from anti-abortion activists who amassed enough signatures to bring the ordinance to the city council. OLIVIER DOULIERY / Contributor/Getty Images