Planned Parenthood drops lawsuit against Lubbock’s ‘sanctuary city for unborn’ ordinance

Planned Parenthood drops lawsuit against Lubbock’s ‘sanctuary city for unborn’ ordinance

Planned Parenthood has dropped its lawsuit against Lubbock over the Texas city’s vote last year to ban abortions by declaring the municipality a “sanctuary city for the unborn.”

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted Friday an unopposed motion filed by Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas to withdraw its appeal after a federal judge dismissed the case in June for lack of jurisdiction.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas CEO Ken Lambrecht said the organization would “continue to consider all legal options to challenge this unconstitutional local ban,” while abortion foes celebrated what they described as a historic legal victory.

“We have said from the beginning that the abortion bans we have drafted are bulletproof from court challenge, and we are pleased that the litigation over Lubbock’s ordinance has proven us right,” said Mark Lee Dickson, director of Right to Life of East Texas and leader of the sanctuary movement.

Planned Parenthood filed its lawsuit a month after Lubbock voters approved May 1 by 62-38% a ballot measure to become a “sanctuary city of the unborn,” which forbids abortions from being performed within the city limits.

Planned Parenthood’s Lubbock clinic had started advertising abortions in April. The vote halted such procedures, although the facility continues to provide services such as birth control and sexually transmitted disease testing, Mr. Lambrecht said.

“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,” he said on EverythingLubbock. “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.”

Pivotal to the Lubbock measure’s success was its enforcement mechanism. Like the 2021 Texas heartbeat law, known as Senate Bill 8, the ordinance is not enforced by government, but rather authorizes private citizens to sue those who “perform, aid, or abet illegal abortions.”

“By adopting this private-enforcement scheme, the city of Lubbock made its ordinance immune from typical pre-enforcement lawsuits against local governmental officials, because neither the city nor any of its officials has any role in enforcing the law, so they cannot be subjected to lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality of the ordinance,” said the Thomas More Society.

Tom Brejcha, Thomas More president and chief counsel, called it a “major and historic victory, as it marks the first time that an abortion ban has survived court challenges since the United States Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.”

“This novel and ingenious strategy of enforcing abortion restrictions and saving lives is working,” he said in a Monday statement. “It is allowing abortion bans to take effect and save lives despite the continued existence of Roe v. Wade.”

Lubbock, with a population of 253,000, is the largest U.S. city to pass a “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinance.

More than 40 jurisdictions have passed sanctuary measures, though most of the action has come in small Texas towns that do not have abortion clinics.