On May 1, 2021, Lubbock, Texas (pop. 264,000), became the largest city to pass an enforceable ordinance outlawing abortion when citizens voted 62.5 percent to 37.5 percent to adopt the ordinance as law in their city. The historic vote made Lubbock the first city to outlaw abortion while having an active abortion facility within its city limits.

When the ordinance passed, the citizens knew it would not be without a challenge.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas sued the City of Lubbock on May 17, 2021. About two weeks later, on June 1, the lawsuit was dismissed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. Next, on June 29, Planned Parenthood asked the Honorable Judge James Wesley Hendrix to reconsider his ruling. After Judge Hendrix denied Planned Parenthood’s motions for reconsideration on October 13, 2021, Planned Parenthood decided to appeal that ruling before the 5th Circuit United States Court of Appeals on November 12, 2021. On January 20, 2022, the decision was made to withdraw the appeal, officially ending the litigation against the City of Lubbock.

Citizens gather outside Lubbock City Hall in 2020 to call upon their leaders to outlaw abortion in the city of Lubbock.

Upon hearing the news, many who helped in the Lubbock initiative celebrated the news.

Two of the most outspoken voices about the victory were Sen. Charles Perry and State Rep. Dustin Burrows. Perry said, “I congratulate the City and the people of Lubbock on this historic victory – and for becoming the first jurisdiction in the United States to successfully defend an abortion ban in court since Roe v. Wade. This is an answer to so many of our prayers.” Burrows said, “Pro-Life Victory! In a major and historic victory for the right to life, Planned Parenthood is dropping its lawsuit over the city of Lubbock’s abortion ban, ensuring that the ordinance will remain in effect!”

Dorothy Boyett, who was head of the Citizen Initiative Petition Committee to get the ordinance on the ballot, said, “When people claim a Sanctuary City Ordinance will not hold up in court, they should look to Lubbock. Not only has Planned Parenthood ceased offering abortions here, they also have withdrawn their appeal.”

Jim Baxa, the president of West Texas for Life and the lead organizer in the Citizen Initiative Petition drive, said, “We’ve known all along that this ordinance is constitutional, and we have been vindicated.”

West Texas for Life President Jim Baxa and YCT member Skyler Wachsmann verifying petition signatures to outlaw abortion in October 2020.

Many throughout the college community also celebrated the news of the Lubbock victory.

“It was a milestone for the pro-life movement. This was the first time an effective abortion ban was passed in a city with an active abortion facility. This was a huge deal.” said Jacob Meyer, a student at Texas Tech University.

Kenzie Gardner, vice chairman of Young Conservatives of Texas at Texas Tech, said, “I think it was a hard-fought victory, and I am glad it went into the hands of the people to do what they want, rather than the elected officials who were not going to do what their constituents wanted.” YCT was one of the campus organizations that made the Lubbock initiative a top priority during the 2020/2021 school semesters.

Texas Tech YCT members with Right to Life of East Texas Director Mark Lee Dickson after block walking to collect citizen initiative petition signatures to outlaw abortion in Abilene, Texas.

“The ordinance was a historical and landmark moment,” said Clay Grossman, chairman of Young Conservatives of Texas at Texas Tech. “We set the stage for a year of pro-life victories across Texas and the United States, starting in little Lubbock.”

Katherine Cochran, president of Raiders Defending Life at Texas Tech, shared, “Our victory in Lubbock, while monumental, was just beginning. I am excited to see Abilene hopefully pass the Sanctuary City Ordinance soon. Even though we won the fight to get (and keep) the ordinance in effect, there is still the fight for each person’s heart.”

As news began to spread, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas decided to release a statement as well. Its president and CEO, Ken Lambrecht, shared, “While we have determined not to move forward with this appeal, this is not the end of our fight in Lubbock, and we continue to consider all legal options to challenge this unconstitutional local ban. Planned Parenthood remains committed to access in Lubbock and beyond.”

One clear sign that Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas is not done with their fight in Lubbock is a recently posted job listing for a Community Outreach Specialist for Lubbock, Texas. The job description calls for an applicant willing to coordinate “outreach events on college campuses to educate and activate college students to advocate on behalf of PPGT and reproductive rights issues.”

The student leaders with Raiders Defending Life at Texas Tech know of this job listing, and they are prepared to do their part to make sure everyone knows that the fight for life is far from over in Lubbock. Cochran shared, “Laws change things, but we also need to keep educating people about the pro-life position and keep being light and salt in our communities. That is why Raiders Defending Life gives out a yearly scholarship to a pregnant or parenting student at Texas Tech University.”

A director with Right To Life of East Texas is planning on working with the campus organization to make sure the organization has everything they need to continue their strong pro-life presence on campus. “One thing which will be done is making sure that RDL leaders have quality shirts with solid pro-life messaging from Empower Life Co. Wearing a pro-life shirt to a class can go a long way in the fight to maintain a pro-life culture, especially in a place where Planned Parenthood is targeting.” Increased funding for the pregnant/parenting scholarships provided by the campus organization is also being discussed.

The Lubbock Ordinance Outlawing Abortion has two major enforcement mechanisms: the public enforcement mechanism and the private enforcement mechanism. While the public enforcement mechanism section of the ordinance is dependent upon other factors, the private enforcement is immediate. The public enforcement establishes fines against the abortionist and anyone who aids and abets the abortionist for any abortion that takes place within the city limits of Lubbock. These fines cannot be imposed unless it is determined that the individual seeking to impose the penalty upon the one who committed the unlawful act will not create an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions, the person, corporation, or entity who committed the unlawful act of abortion lacks standing to assert the third-party rights of women seeking abortions in court, or Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey is overturned. The private enforcement mechanism allows for anyone, including family members of a child killed by abortion, to sue the abortionist or anyone who aids and abets the abortionist in the murder of an unborn child. Since the ordinance went into effect on June 1, 2021, the law has been complied with by Planned Parenthood, and no babies have been murdered by abortion in Lubbock, Texas.

Titus Folks, grassroots political coordinator with Students for Life of America, shared, “Lubbock proved that we can take action now to save babies from abortion in Texas. Students for Life was proud to mobilize dozens of pro-life students to take action in the Lubbock ballot referendum. We plan to continue our role in this life-saving movement.”

A total of 43 cities have passed ordinances outlawing abortion in the United States. Of those 43 cities, 39 are in Texas, two are in Nebraska, and two are in Ohio. Currently, four cities (San Angelo, Abilene, Lindale, and Plainview) are doing citizen initiative petitions, following in Lubbock’s footsteps.

This is a commentary published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to submission@texasscorecard.com.

Mark Lee Dickson

Mark Lee Dickson is a director with Right to Life of East Texas and the founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative.