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The ACLU of Texas and ACLU National have withdrawn their lawsuit against seven “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn” in Texas that adopted ordinances outlawing abortion within their city limits. The ACLU’s decision to withdraw its lawsuit came less than three months after it sued the cities over their decision to ban abortion within their jurisdiction. The cities named in the lawsuit were the cities of Waskom (Pop. 2,189), Naples (Pop. 1,378), Joaquin (Pop. 850), Tenaha (Pop. 1,160), Rusk (Pop. 5,618), Gary (Pop. 311), and Wells (Pop. 769).
The ACLU claimed in its lawsuit that the right to access abortion is a right protected by the United States Constitution and argued that the “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn” ordinances were creating confusion about that right. The ACLU argued that the ordinances passed by the seven cities violated abortion facilities’ right to free expression, hindered them from exercising their work, and judged them as criminals without a trial.
Right to Life of East Texas described the lawsuit as a “meritless” one brought to deter and intimidate cities from enacting constitutional ordinances which are consistent with the laws of Texas. Attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell, the former Solicitor General of Texas, agreed to represent each of the seven cities at no cost to the cities or taxpayers.
After the lawsuit, and at the advice of expert legal counsel, the seven cities amended their ordinances to make them even stronger in regards to clarity and uniformity. Before the lawsuit, the ordinance that had been adopted by the City Council of Waskom had allowed for elective abortions in the cases of rape or incest. When the Waskom ordinance was amended on March 11, 2020, those exceptions for abortion in cases of rape or incest were removed.
Lines of clarity were also placed throughout the new versions of the ordinances in Waskom, Naples, Joaquin, Tenaha, Rusk, Gary, and Wells. The amended ordinance in Section C.5 reads, “No provision of Section C may be construed to prohibit any conduct protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as made applicable to the States through the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment.” This statement was not added because the original ordinances prohibited the First Amendment rights of anyone, but was added to be even more clear about what this ordinance does and does not accomplish. The ordinances do not prohibit anyone’s fundamental right to free speech. What the ordinances do prohibit is the murder of innocent unborn children.
In the amended ordinances, Waskom, Naples, Joaquin, Tenaha, and Rusk also added Section E.4. This amendment did not change the functionality of the original ordinances. This amendment, which had already been included in the original ordinances for Gary and Wells, goes out of its way to explain what was already there. In short, the Private Enforcement mechanism is not dependent upon the overturning of Roe v. Wade and is, in fact, immediately enforceable. Section E.4 reads, “Private enforcement described in Section E.1 and E.2 may be brought against a person or entity that commits an unlawful act described in Section C upon the effective date of that ordinance, regardless of whether the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), or permits states and municipalities to once again enforce abortion prohibitions.”
Although it was not necessary, the amended ordinances also chose to remove language referring to various abortion groups as “criminal organizations.” According to a statement issued by Right To Life of East Texas, “The removal of the designation of the Lilith Fund and the TEA Fund as ‘criminal organizations’ does not change the fact that if the Lilith Fund pays for an abortion which takes place within any of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn they will still be breaking the law, and would still be able to be considered a criminal organization.” After the amendments were made, the ACLU had the opportunity to continue its lawsuit, revise it, or withdraw it.
The ACLU chose to withdraw its lawsuit.
According to Right to Life of East Texas,“This is a total and complete victory for the cities that have enacted these ordinances.” Upon hearing the news, several people released celebratory statements across East Texas.
In Joaquin, the fourth city to outlaw abortion in the nation and the third city named in the lawsuit, Councilman Mike Cummings said:
I’m proud to live in a town that will not back down from the bullies known as the ACLU. We heard the barks from their chihuahuas, we swam with the ACLU sharks, and I’m happy to announce that the abortion ban lawsuit Joaquin was named as a defendant in has been dropped. One small step for man, one giant leap for the unborn in our area! It’s our goal to make abortion illegal, if we have to do it one Texas town at a time. All the online ridiculing, private messages, threats received, make it all worth it.
Remember those who warned the wrath from the ACLU when they filed suit? They are but a memory! I challenge towns all over Texas to join hands with us and make a stand and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves! When God is for us, who can be against us? To God be the glory!
In Tenaha, the fifth Texas city to outlaw abortion and the fourth city named in the lawsuit, Chief of Police Jeremy Pope said, “We welcome the news of the ACLU pulling out of their outrageous lawsuit against several cities. It is a win for the Unborn, Christians and Pro-life Believers across the state of Texas, this nation, and across the world. The ordinance stands and the cruel murder of unborn babies will not prosper in our city.”
In Rusk, the eighth Texas city to outlaw abortion and the fifth city named in the lawsuit, Pastor Keith Hassell of Grace Fellowship said:
Like David standing against Goliath, these towns stood firm against the abortion industry and the ACLU’s threats and intimidation. It is a victory for life—the lives of unborn children. It is a victory for courage—to stand up for what is right regardless of threats and lawsuits. It is a victory for the voiceless—the unborn children who depend upon someone to speak up for them. It is a victory for human rights—rights that are given by God the Creator. It is a victory for the founding principles upon which our Constitutional Republic was established–‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIFE, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’
It is a victory for the sacredness of human life—because all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. When we deny the sacredness of human life, we undermine the foundation for every other human right. Human rights—including the right to life—come from God and must never be surrendered to those who feel they have the power to determine who lives and who dies.
And in Gary, Texas, the 10th Texas city to outlaw abortion in the nation and the sixth city named in the lawsuit, Gary resident Janet Ellis praised her city leaders, saying, “I am so proud of the City Council of Gary, Texas for not backing down from the ACLU. They stayed true to God. They trusted that God had everything in control and He did!”
In a statement released today, Texas Right To Life joined in the celebration, stating:
Texas Right to Life celebrates with these Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn that this attempt to quash their Pro-Life victories has failed. We applaud the cities’ tactical and bold move to cut the legs out from under the pro-abortion side before even reaching the trial stage. As expected, these strong and enforceable ordinances have successfully withstood legal scrutiny. Pro-Life Texans can continue to find encouragement in these citizens’ courageous commitment to stand up for the innocent pre-born children in their own communities, even and especially in the face of superficial legal challenges.
The cities that outlawed abortion and were not named in the lawsuit brought by the ACLU were the cities of Gilmer (Pop. 5,216), Westbrook (Pop 312), Colorado City (Pop. 4,146), and Big Spring (Pop. 28,862). The city of Whiteface (Pop. 449) outlawed abortion after the ACLU lawsuit was filed. The city of Omaha (Pop. 1,021) was the second city to outlaw abortion but the city council recanted their position a month later on the advice of their city attorney.
Surprisingly, the ACLU of Texas, the Lilith Fund, and the TEA Fund are celebrating the withdrawing of their own lawsuit as a victory on their side. The ACLU of Texas tweeted, “VICTORY: The 7 east TX cities we sued in February for passing anti-abortion ordinances have backed down in response to our lawsuit. It’s now absolutely clear that our clients, abortion providers & advocates have the constitutional right to perform their work in these communities.”
Of course, anyone who reads the amended ordinances will see that abortion is still outlawed right now in Waskom, Naples, Joaquin, Tenaha, Rusk, Gary, and Wells, Texas. Furthermore, they will also see that the laws of these cities clearly prohibit anyone from performing or paying for an abortion which happens within their city limits.
More cities are expected to outlaw abortion within their jurisdictions in the near future. For more information about the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn initiative, visit www.
Mark Lee Dickson is a Director with Right to Life of East Texans, a Pastor of SovereignLOVE Church in Longview, Texas, and the founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn initiative.
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