Lubbock County Commissioners pass abortion transportation ordinance, some surprised by procedure
Commissioners in Lubbock County moved forward with an ordinance intended to thwart people driving on unincorporated county roads who are driving to get, or help someone else get, access to abortion services.
Lubbock is the largest county in Texas to pass a bill against abortion transportation. Other counties, like Mitchell and Goliad, have passed similar ordinances since Texas’ Senate Bill 8 outlawed abortion in the state past the first six weeks.
A similar ordinance recently passed in nearby Cochran County, on the New Mexico border. The ordinances wouldn't be enforced by police. Instead, a private citizen who knows someone who has used Lubbock County roads to receive abortion care in a state where it's legal, such as New Mexico or Colorado, may sue the person.
No violations have been reported in the five jurisdictions that have so far approved these measures.
Activist pastor Mark Lee Dickson, who has led “sanctuary city for the unborn” movements in cities across Texas, including Lubbock, is now leading these “sanctuary county” efforts.
Dickson said part of his strategy is focused on “riling up the community” to unseat city council members and commissioners who oppose anti-abortion efforts, such as Odessa, where an initial vote against its ordinance in January 2021 was reversed after new officials were elected.
Supporters of the ordinance came to Lubbock from across eastern New Mexico and the South Plains, wearing blue to advocate for the movement.
Some Lubbockites, however, said they left the courthouse feeling betrayed by county commissioners after what was initially presented as nothing more than a simple discussion on the proposal ended with a vote.
A group of Lubbock mothers and grandmothers wore pink to oppose the ordinance. One attendee, Sarah Reid, said she was under the impression a vote would not happen Monday.
“We were speaking on our position of not being in favor of the proposition, we were told that there would be a break, there would not be a vote today,” Reid said. “While we were gone, apparently, there were some on the commission who chose to push it on through.”
Civil Chief Neal Burt with the Lubbock County District Attorney’s Office told commissioners the office needed more time to review the ordinance.
Judge Curtis Parrish became almost tearful describing how his personal experiences have made him pro-life, but he added that many emotions were driving those in the room, and the court needed more time to address the issue.
"I continue to wonder what this ordinance is trying to legally accomplish," Parrish asked, remarking that he believed many came to the meeting "to make threats to the gentlemen on the dais in order to get people elected that will push your personal political agendas."
“This ordinance as written has many legal problems,” Parrish told the court, adding he doesn’t have problems with intent, but that it needed to be amended.
When the vote was over, Lubbockite Charlotte Dunham said she felt betrayed by what happened.
“We didn't get the notice till Friday that this meeting was even happening. Then they tell us we're not voting. And then immediately when it's over, stand up and say let's vote,” Dunham said. “They won't postpone it. They won't listen to people who say there might be wording that needs to be changed. It was pushed through. And that's not the way you treat the people of the county of Lubbock, Texas.”
Parrish moved to postpone the vote but was denied by Commissioners Terence Kovar, Jason Corley and Jordan Rackler, who then voted to approve the ordinance. Commissioner Gilbert Flores and Judge Parrish abstained.
Activists from both sides expressed their intent to drive to Amarillo on Tuesday for a similar discussion with the Amarillo City Council.