Judge Dismisses Planned Parenthood Challenge to Texas Sanctuary City

Lubbock is largest city to adopt pro-life law

(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
June 2, 2021

A federal court smacked down Planned Parenthood's attempt to thwart a Texas city from declaring itself a sanctuary for the unborn.

Northern District of Texas judge James Wesley Hendrix dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the nation's largest abortion provider lacked the jurisdiction to challenge the law. "Because the ability to remedy a plaintiff's injury through a favorable decision is a prerequisite to a plaintiff’s standing to sue—an ability absent here—the court dismisses the case for lack of jurisdiction," Hendrix wrote.

On May 17, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas filed a lawsuit to stop the Lubbock ordinance from going into effect on June 1. It declared that the city would automatically outlaw abortion if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. "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," the ordinance says. Lubbock, with a population north of 250,000 people, is the largest city in Texas to adopt such a ban.

The Lubbock ordinance empowers private citizens to sue any abortion providers suspected of performing abortions after the overturning of Roe. This places the responsibility for enforcing the law in the hands of private citizens, not the local government. Hendrix left open the possibility for further legal review of the ordinance but declined to intervene to stop it from taking effect.

The move opens another front in the war over state laws restricting or expanding access to abortion; 25 other cities in Texas have adopted similar "sanctuary city" ordinances. The ordinances have been modeled after Democrat-run cities that clashed with the Trump administration over becoming sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants. Additionally, 10 states have passed "trigger" bills that will outlaw abortion if Roe is overturned. The ruling also comes days after the Texas state legislature passed such a trigger bill.

Both the ACLU and Planned Parenthood said they will appeal the decision. "In spite of this ruling, we will continue to fight to protect the rights of all Texans," said Adriana Piñon, policy counsel and senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. She added that the ordinance is unconstitutional and the organization is "disappointed" in the judge's ruling.

"Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Texas will continue fighting to ensure that every person in Lubbock has access to the health care they need and deserve, including abortion," said Alexis McGill Johnson, the president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "Despite this disappointing ruling, the fight isn't over. We remain committed to doing everything in our power to overturn this unconstitutional law."