Editor's note: This is a breaking news story that will be updated as more information becomes available.
Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services is suing the City of Lubbock for what it calls an unconstitutional ordinance that attempts to outlaw abortion.
The lawsuit was filed in the federal Northern District Court of Texas on Monday evening and seeks to declare the ordinance invalid under state and federal law. The health organization is seeking to halt the enforcement of the ordinance, which is set to become local law on June 1.
The lawsuit is available online.
In its lawsuit, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services states it is challenging the ordinance because it departs from the 50-year precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade. That ruling established that the U.S. constitution protects a pregnant woman's right to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.
The “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinance aims to criminalize providing abortion services. The ordinance also allows family members of an aborted fetus to sue the abortion provider. Anyone who helped a woman get the procedure, like the person who drove her to the appointment, could be sued. The woman herself is not liable under this rule.
The lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood states the civil litigation aspect of the ordinance has already had a chilling effect to accessing abortion services.
"The legal and financial risk to the health center and to its personnel personally is too great. Even if they 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 lawsuit reads. "Indeed, the Ordinance has already forced Plaintiffs to cancel abortion-related appointments to avoid potential liability."
After the city council unanimously voted against the ordinance, a petition drive led to it going to a public vote. It passed with 62% of votes out of over 34,000 ballots cast in the May 1 municipal election. The Lubbock City Council approved the results of the election at last week’s regular meeting.
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope said the city will defend the ordinance, as it would any other local law.
Lubbock is the largest of more than 25 Texas cities to enact a “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinance, but it’s the first to do so by a public vote and the first city to actually have an abortion provider in its limits. Planned Parenthood reopened its Lubbock health center last year and began offering medicinal abortions in April.
The Lubbock lawsuit is filed as “The Texas Heartbeat Act” is set to become law. The bill bans abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, around six weeks into gestation and before many women know they are pregnant. The bill would also allow anyone to sue someone who provides some kind of support to a woman who has an abortion. Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign the law soon and it would go into effect on Sept. 1.
Have a news tip? Email Sarah Self-Walbrick at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her reporting on Twitter @SarahFromTTUPM.
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