ACLU sues 7 Texas pro-life 'sanctuary cities' in attempt to block abortion business bans

An image of an unborn child. | Reuters

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing seven cities in Texas that passed ordinances banning abortion businesses from operating within their jurisdictions.

The national ACLU and its Texas chapter filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division, on behalf of two abortion activist groups, Texas Equal Access Fund and the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity.

Defendants named in the suit are the cities of Waskom, Gary, Joaquin, Naples, Rusk, Tenaha, and Wells, which have all recently voted to become “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn.”  

“The right to access abortion is protected by the United States Constitution. But in recent months, at the behest of anti-abortion activists, several east Texas municipalities have passed ordinances that claim to ban abortion,” the lawsuit says, in part.

“Although this section of the ordinances cannot be enforced while Roe v. Wade is in effect, the ordinances’ existence misleads residents of these cities as to whether individuals can in fact exercise their right to access abortion.”

The suit also argues that “while the ordinances concede that they cannot ban abortion under current law, several other provisions are in effect.”

“The ordinances deem Plaintiffs Texas Equal Access Fund (‘TEA Fund’) and Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity (‘Lilith Fund’), and other pro-choice organizations, as ‘criminal organizations,’” continued the suit.

“This means that Plaintiffs have been judged criminal without ever having been charged with a crime, much less afforded a trial.”

Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement released Tuesday that the ordinances were “part of a nationwide attack on abortion access.”

“Whether it is bans on abortion, attempts to close clinics, or moves to silence people who support abortion access, the ACLU will fight against these unconstitutional and cruel measures,” Amiri said.

Texas Right to Life was critical of the ACLU's lawsuit, describing it as “desperate” and commended the sanctuary cities for the unborn for showing “great courage in standing up against the abortion industry.”

“Unsurprisingly, organizations that profit off the death of preborn children are throwing a hodgepodge of complaints at the court and seeing what they can get to stick,” the pro-life group said.

“In passing the ordinance, cities acted within their constitutional rights to self-governance and within the scope of current U.S. Supreme Court abortion jurisprudence. The ordinance language is solid and carefully drafted in expectation of the abortion industry filing a lawsuit.”

Last June, the Waskom City Council unanimously voted to become what is believed to be the first Texas town to declare itself a sanctuary city for the unborn.

Waskom Mayor Jesse Moore said in a statement at the time that the new ordinance was about preventing the possible creation of an abortion clinic in his city.

“We decided to take things into our own hands, and we've got to do something to protect our cities and to protect the unborn children,” Moore told Fox 26 Houston last year.

Soon after, other Texas cities passed similar measures, with the total as of Wednesday morning being 11 cities across the Lone Star State, according to the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn website.

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