The pro-life Texas Heartbeat Act led to immediate reductions in abortions in the state and well-funded legal attacks immediately upon it becoming effective on September 1. Whether or not any of the legal challenges to the statewide law are effective, Lubbock’s local ordinance making it a “sanctuary city for the unborn” will prevent abortionists from working in the city soon.
Lubbock had a ballot initiative on May 1 that provided that abortion at “all times” and “all stages” of pregnancy is declared to be “an act of murder.” It further proclaimed abortion at any stage of pregnancy to be an unlawful act, as is knowingly aiding or abetting an abortion procedure inside the city. The measure passed with 62 percent of the vote.
With a population of around 259,000, Lubbock is the largest city in the country to declare abortion an unlawful act. Some smaller towns have passed similar ordinances, but it appears that Lubbock is the only city with an active abortion provider to do so.
Predictably, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the ordinance. In June, Judge James Wesley Hendrix of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Texas dismissed the case. The judge found that the court lacked jurisdiction because Planned Parenthood did not have the standing to sue the ordinance.
The state’s Heartbeat Act was temporarily blocked last week by a federal judge for the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Texas. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton immediately appealed that order to the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which allowed the law to go back into force just two days later. In the appeal, Paxton argued that the lower court’s decision violates the federal separation of powers “at every turn.”
Planned Parenthood and Whole Woman’s Health are two Texas abortion providers who took various actions when the Heartbeat Act was first blocked and then reinstated. Even when the state law was temporarily blocked, Planned Parenthood decided to continue following the Lubbock ordinance.
Last week, a Planned Parenthood representative told reporters that as the Lubbock ordinance continues to be in place and bans abortions at all stages of pregnancy, the provider will continue to follow the city law. Planned Parenthood has not provided any abortions inside Lubbock since the ordinance was passed.
The outcome of challenges to the Texas Heartbeat Act and other abortion restrictions around the nation will be decided in the Supreme Court. The high court is hearing a case in the current term from Mississippi dealing with that state’s ban of abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In that case, Mississippi and a host of interested parties have directly requested the court overturn its decision in Roe v. Wade which finds a federal constitutional right to abortion procedures. Oral arguments in Dobbs are set for December 1, and a final decision is expected by mid-2022.