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Planned Parenthood Sues Texas’s ‘Sanctuary City for the Unborn’

Planned Parenthood employees look out from their building, St. Louis, Mo., June 4, 2019. (Lawrence Bryant/Reuters)

Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against Lubbock, Texas on Monday after the city declared itself a “sanctuary city for the unborn.”

The suit, filed by Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services and Dr. G. Sealy Massingill, claims the city’s “Ordinance Outlawing Abortion” is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The complaint says the ordinance violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because the “Constitution guarantees the right to abortion before viability,” and the ordinance “Bans pre-viability abortions.”

“The city of Lubbock, TX thinks it can ban abortion and defy nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent,” Planned Parenthood wrote in a tweet. “They’re wrong – and we’ll see them in court.”

Residents supported the measure in an unofficial vote on Saturday, with 62 percent voting in favor and 38 percent opposed. The vote came less than a year after Planned Parenthood opened a clinic in Lubbock and months after the City Council declined to support the measure on legal grounds, as it warned passing the ordinance could spark a costly legal battle.

The ordinance outlaws abortion within the city. It allows family members of a person who has an abortion to sue the provider and any individuals who help a woman get an abortion. However, the measure would not be enforced by the government unless the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion. Instead, it relies upon private citizens filing lawsuits, according to the Texas Tribune.

Lubbock joins dozens of other Texas cities that have passed similar ordinances. However, Lubbock is the first to pass such a measure while already having an abortion clinic within its limits. It is also the largest city to approve such a measure.

The complaint says the city’s ordinance would force Planned Parenthood to “cease all abortion services” which it says would undermine Planned Parenthood’s “mission of providing affordable, comprehensive reproductive health care.”

It alleges that the ordinance violates state law as the city does not have the authority to “create civil liability between private parties.” It adds that the “legal and financial risk to [Planned Parenthood] and to its personnel personally is too great.”

“Even if [Planned Parenthood] were to successfully defend against a civil suit, the litigation costs from the barrage of civil lawsuits encouraged by the Ordinance would be crushing,” the  complaint says. “Indeed, the Ordinance has already forced Plaintiffs to cancel abortion-related appointments to avoid potential liability.” 

“It imposes substantial liability on anyone who procures, performs, aids, or abets an abortion in Lubbock, be it a doctor, nurse, relative, friend, or stranger,” the complaint adds. 

The suit seeks “declaratory and injunctive relief” which would nullify the ordinance and keep it from taking effect.

Lubbock said in a statement that it “will vigorously defend this ordinance and looks forward to presenting that defense in court.”

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