The citizens of Lubbock voted by a wide margin to outlaw abortion citywide on May 1 last year. Planned Parenthood sued the city in federal court later that month but appealed the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals after losing at district court in June.
The company filed a voluntary motion to dismiss the appeal late Thursday evening.
Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), who encouraged the city to pass the ordinance, celebrated the news.
“I congratulate the City and the people of Lubbock on this historic victory — and for becoming the first jurisdiction in the United States to successfully defend an abortion ban in court since Roe v. Wade. This is an answer to so many of our prayers,” Perry stated.
“With the Texas Heartbeat Act taking effect last September, and with Lubbock having outlawed abortion within city limits, the state of Texas is leading the way on protecting the unborn despite the continued existence of Roe v. Wade. Texas and Lubbock have shown how states and cities can ban or restrict abortion while immunizing their laws from pre-enforcement judicial review. I encourage other cities in Texas and throughout the United States to adopt similar ordinances.”
Supportive activists, led by “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn” initiative founder Mark Lee Dickson, encouraged city leaders to pass the ordinance through the city council. The mayor and council snubbed the ordinance after consulting with a Houston law firm, but later considered it after a petition forced it onto the city council agenda.
At that meeting, the council unanimously rejected the proposal, with most councilors citing fear of litigation. Mayor Dan Pope said the ordinance conflicted with state law and federal jurisprudence. Councilwoman Latrelle Joy cited a recent ruling against the state’s ban on dismemberment abortions, a law that was later upheld by the same court in an en banc ruling.
After the ordinance passed on a citywide vote and Planned Parenthood sued, the judge asked the State of Texas to weigh in. Texas Solicitor General Judd Stone responded with a letter on May 31 claiming that Planned Parenthood had not demonstrated a clear conflict between the ordinance and state law, especially in light of the newly passed Texas Heartbeat Act, a law banning abortions after cardiac activity in the womb.
Like Lubbock’s ordinance, the Heartbeat Act, passed as Senate Bill (SB) 8, authorizes citizens to sue anybody — besides the mother — that performs or aids an illegal abortion. Additionally, SB 8 explicitly provides that cities can prohibit abortion more stringently than the state.
While cardiac activity develops in the womb about six weeks into a typical pregnancy, Lubbock’s ordinance bans abortion from the moment of conception.
It makes an exception for medical procedures meant to save the mother’s life.
Under the ordinance, government officials cannot punish violators unless the U.S. Supreme Court reverses longstanding abortion jurisprudence, a court declares that the penalty would not impose an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions, or a judge rules that the violator lacks standing to assert the rights of women seeking abortions in court. The mother cannot be sued or penalized under any circumstance.
The success of the ordinance in court derives from the Third Article of the U.S. Constitution, which mandates that courts resolve real controversies between parties. While judges can issue injunctions meant to remedy real injuries, these rulings do not erase laws from the books.
The district court judge that heard Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit, James Wesley Hendrix, ruled that Planned Parenthood lacked standing to sue the city since any actual injury the company might suffer would result from a citizen’s lawsuit, not the city government itself.
Planned Parenthood issued a statement maintaining that the ordinance and SB 8 are both unconstitutional.
“While we have determined not to move forward with this appeal, this is not the end of our fight in Lubbock, and we continue to consider all legal options to challenge this unconstitutional local ban,” Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas President Ken Lambrecht stated.
“We know people in Lubbock and throughout Texas face insurmountable barriers to accessing abortion due to S.B. 8, the state’s near-total abortion ban, which has been in effect for nearly five months now. But it is clear we cannot depend on the courts to protect our constitutional rights, as our challenge to S.B. 8 continues to languish with no end in sight and abortion access hangs by a thread across the country.”
Lubbock was the 24th “sanctuary” in Texas, a tally that has since risen to 39.
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