Last week, two years and over two dozen towns later, Lindale became the 42nd city in Texas to ban abortion citywide with an enforceable ordinance, joining a group of towns that dub themselves “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn.”
However, when the Lindale City Council convened in a packed Picker’s Pavilion on March 24, it approved an ordinance very different from the proposal it rejected in 2020.
The old, unapproved ordinance declares any group that performs or aids abortions to be a “criminal organization,” specifically naming Planned Parenthood, Whole Woman’s Health, and several abortion funds. It also bans them from operating in Lindale.
In nearly every other respect, the current ordinance that passed on Thursday is more substantial.
Both versions use civil lawsuits as the most immediate method of enforcement, authorizing litigation against people that perform or aid an abortion in Lindale besides the mother herself.
However, the old ordinance held the violator liable to surviving relatives of the unborn child. The new ordinance creates a private right of action that lets anybody sue any violator.
In addition to broadening the capacity for private enforcement through lawsuits, the new ordinance also inches closer to full direct government enforcement. While the old version forbids local officials from penalizing violators before the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the version that passed last week also allows direct penalties if a state or federal court says the penalty would not unduly burden women seeking abortions or if the violator lacks standing to assert the rights of women seeking abortions.
In addition, the new ordinance encourages the Smith County district attorney to investigate and prosecute anybody that “furnishes the means for procuring” an elective abortion.
The Lindale City Council adopted the ordinance by a unanimous vote.
Mark Lee Dickson, the activist behind the “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn” initiative, said the ordinance underwent some revision during the council process but functionally remains as effective as other cities’ ordinances.
“The Lindale City Council and the the Citizen Initiating Committee agreed to remove the ban on employer provided insurance coverage for abortions and the prohibition on abortions outside of Lindale, Texas,” Dickson said.
“The ‘meat and taters’ of the ordinance, which bans performing an abortion and aiding and abetting an abortion, remains intact along with the prohibition on the possession and distribution of the abortion pill.”
This year, the ordinance was brought to the city council’s table by a committee of citizens working through a process that would have allowed a citywide election to adopt the ordinance if the council had rejected it last week. Citizens in Plainview, Abilene, and San Angelo are working through the same process.
Lindale is the 13th “sanctuary” in Texas to make abortifacient drugs contraband.
The last town to ban abortion locally in Texas was Shallowater in Lubbock County.
Update: This article was updated to include quotes by Mark Lee Dickson.
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