City in Texas Declares Itself a Sanctuary for the Unborn After Ballot Initiative

Lubbock law will outlaw abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned

Pro-life and pro-choice activists in 2018 / Getty Images
May 5, 2021

Voters have made one of the largest cities in Texas a "sanctuary city for the unborn," passing an ordinance to automatically outlaw abortion in the event Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Lubbock, a city in northwest Texas with a population of more than 250,000 people, became the 25th city to declare that abortion will be outlawed in the city in a post-Roe, post-Planned Parenthood v. Casey world. The ban passed with 63 percent of votes cast. The vote comes after contentious legal battles between the Trump administration and Democrat-run cities that declared themselves sanctuaries over disagreements with former president Trump's immigration policies.

"The State's temporary inability to prosecute or punish those who violate its abortion statutes on account of Roe v. Wade does not change the fact that abortion is still defined as a criminal act under Texas law," the ordinance 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."

Lubbock is the largest city to adopt such a ban. The ban would most significantly impact a Planned Parenthood clinic that opened in June 2020.  The state of Texas accounted for about 6 percent of U.S. abortions performed in 2017, according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute. The institute reports that 55,440 abortions were performed in the state in 2017, a decrease of 3 percent from 2014.

"Voters made it clear that Lubbock will become the next sanctuary city for the unborn," Lubbock mayor Dan Pope (R.) said in a statement.

The ordinance takes direct aim at Planned Parenthood. It would allow citizens to take legal action against "any personnel from Planned Parenthood or other pro-abortion organizations who perform abortions of any kind." It does exempt procedures in the case of threats to the health of the mother or child.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas did not respond to a request for comment. The organization said in a statement that it is "carefully reviewing" the impacts of the ordinance before determining its next steps.

"The Lubbock ordinance approved on May 1, 2021 establishes an abortion ban for Lubbock residents, creating significant barriers and the need to travel a minimum 600 mile round trip or out of state to obtain an abortion," the statement said.

Pro-life and religious organizations praised the ordinance for setting the stage for a future in which abortion law is entirely up to states.

"Babies' lives will be saved as a result of this ordinance," Jim Baxa, president of West Texas for Life, said. "States should be asserting their authority to ban abortion regardless of what tyrants in the federal court think.  Until States have the courage to ban abortion statewide, cities have a right and a duty to outlaw abortion within their city limits."

Robert M. Coerver, the bishop of the Catholic diocese of Lubbock, said he hopes the ordinance "will be successful in bringing about an end to the killing of voiceless innocents through the act of abortion."

"I hope that this moment in the city of Lubbock will be an occasion for all residents to grow in their respect for all human life, from the moment of conception to natural death," he said.

The city will likely adopt the ordinance on June 1.