Planned Parenthood drops lawsuit over Lubbock abortion ban
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - On Thursday, Planned Parenthood dropped its appeal against the City of Lubbock’s abortion ban. The Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance will now remain in effect, ending their battle against the law.
The ordinance was approved by Lubbock voters on May 1, 2021, becoming the largest sanctuary city in Texas. More than 63% of voters supported the proposition. Following voter approval, Planned Parenthood filed litigation in federal court on behalf of its patients, physicians, and staff in Lubbock to oppose the controversial, new abortion ban.
The outlaw of abortion services in Lubbock went into effect on June 1, 2021. The back-and-forth continued on the legality of the ordinance for months nationwide. On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court requested to send the fight over the ban to trial, sending it back to the 5th Court of Appeals. This decision means the ban will stay in place as the legal process continues.
Planned Parenthood told us that they appealed their lawsuit against the City of Lubbock because higher courts have not overturned Senate Bill 8.
The head of Planned Parenthood of Texas, Ken Lambrecht, said the non-profit cannot depend on the courts to protect abortion access since lawsuits against “The Heartbeat Bill” are stuck in the justice system.
“It is clear we cannot depend on the courts to protect our constitutional rights, as our challenge to S.B. 8 continues to languish with no end in sight and abortion access hangs by a thread across the country,” Lambrecht said.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court declined a request from pro choice advocates to intervene in the ongoing legal challenge against SB8.
Justice Sotomayor wrote that state leaders know the fear and confusion this legal process causes, and this prevents federal courts from stopping it.
“State officials knew that the fear and confusion caused by this legal-procedural labyrinth would restrict citizens from accessing constitutionally-protected medical care, providers from offering it, and federal courts from restoring it, Sotomayor wrote in her Jan. 20 dissent.
The case is currently before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, who sent it to the Texas Supreme Court. The decision will add months to legal proceedings.
Lubbock State Senator Charles Perry, who introduced this ordinance last year, said the law is immune to pre-enforcement lawsuits.
That means the courts must wait for someone to begin civil action against an abortion provider. Private enforcement means the city or its elected officials have no role in enforcing the law.
“By adopting this unique private-enforcement structure, the city of Lubbock made its ordinance immune from pre-enforcement lawsuits because neither the city nor its officials have any role in enforcing the law, so they cannot be subjected to lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality of the ordinance,” Perry said in a statement.
The Supreme Court expressed concern in October, saying Senate Bill 8 circumvents judicial review.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that opens the door to similar laws against other protected rights.
“Under such unique circumstances, the equities plainly favor administrative relief while this Court sorts out these issues. Every day that S. B. 8 remains in effect is a day in which such tactics are rewarded. And every day the scheme succeeds increases the likelihood that it will be adapted to attack other federal constitutional rights,” Sotomayor wrote in a dissent on Oct. 22.
In their statement, Planned Parenthood said they will continue to provide “affordable healthcare services at the Lubbock clinic.”
You can read the complete text of their statement below:
“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,” Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas President and CEO, Ken Lambrecht, said in a statement provided to KCBD.
“As a trusted community resource, our Lubbock Health Center is open and actively serving patients in need of expert, affordable healthcare, including cancer screenings, birth control, STI testing and treatment, and other essential services. We know people in Lubbock and throughout Texas face insurmountable barriers to accessing abortion due to S.B. 8, the state’s near-total abortion ban, which has been in effect for nearly five months now. But it is clear we cannot depend on the courts to protect our constitutional rights, as our challenge to S.B. 8 continues to languish with no end in sight and abortion access hangs by a thread across the country.”
Lubbock Sen. Charles Perry also released a statement, saying “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.”
“With the Texas Heartbeat Act taking effect last September, and with Lubbock having outlawed abortion within city limits, the state of Texas is leading the way on protecting the unborn despite the continued existence of Roe v. Wade. Texas and Lubbock have shown how states and cities can ban or restrict abortion while immunizing their laws from pre-enforcement judicial review. I encourage other cities in Texas and throughout the United States to adopt similar ordinances.”
Lubbock Rep. Dustin Burrows tweeted “Pro-Life Victory!” in response to the organization dropping the suit.
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