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The City Council of Lubbock, the 11th largest city in Texas, has unanimously voted against an ordinance to outlaw abortion within their city limits. Texas Senator Charles Perry and Texas Representatives Dustin Burrows and John Frullo had sent a letter on August 25th to Mayor Dan Pope, encouraging him to pass an ordinance similar to one passed in 14 other cities throughout Texas. Since that ordinance was given to the Mayor of Lubbock, the cities of New Home and Morton voted to adopt the ordinance, becoming the 15th and 16th cities to outlaw abortion in the nation.
The City of Lubbock hired Olson & Olson, an outside law firm from Houston, Texas, to review the ordinance. Right To Life of East Texas, West Texas For Life, Pro-Life Waco, and Texas Right To Life — which is the largest and oldest pro-life organization in the State of Texas — have all raised concern over the city’s hiring of the firm to review the ordinance due to the law firm’s family ties to Planned Parenthood. Olson & Olson met with the Lubbock City Council on Tuesday, October 13, in a meeting closed to the public. Olson & Olson’s legal opinion was that the ordinance is unconstitutional.
At this, seven Lubbock residents took advantage of the Lubbock City Charter’s Initiative and Referendum which allowed for a process to gather enough signatures to force the ordinance to a vote by the city council. If the council voted down the ordinance then it could go before a public vote by Lubbock residents in the next uniform election. The amount of verified signatures needed to force the vote was 3,651 verified signatures. In two weeks, over 5,000 signatures were collected by the people of Lubbock and a hearing was set for November 17, 2020, forcing the city council to hear and vote on the ordinance.
Over 150 residents spoke before the council regarding the ordinance, and the majority were in favor of it. David Rhoades, Pastor of Broadview Baptist Church, criticized the legal advice the council received as “poor, and fundamentally incorrect.” Pastor Rhoades went on to quote section 1.07 of the Texas Penal Code which defines an individual as, “A human being who is alive, including an unborn child at every stage of gestation. From fertilization until birth.” Rhodes argued that, according to the legal definition, accidental and intentional deaths of unborn individuals carry the potential for civil and criminal penalties. “In addition to the Texas Penal Code, Title 10, Chapter 22:72 of the Texas Government Code specifically allows cities and counties to prohibit abortion within their jurisdictions. Both codes in Texas establish a simple fact: there exist no legitimate legal reason to keep this city council from passing the proposed ordinance, and the fear that the City of Lubbock could be sued should be assuaged by the fact that the ACLU has withdrawn its lawsuits on this matter.”
When Lubbock resident Marty Gregory shared her reasoning for wanting to see abortion outlawed, Mayor Pope chided her for referencing her faith. “With all due respect, this is not about your beliefs or the Lord’s belief, it’s about the ordinance.” As another resident spoke about Planned Parenthood and the selling of baby body parts, Mayor Pope stopped her mid-sentence, saying, “Mrs. Whittenberg, baby parts have nothing to do with the ordinance. The argument is about a Sanctuary City for the Unborn. Not about Planned Parenthood.”
One of the most passionate testimonies of the night was that of Shonda McCay Rodriguez. As Rodriguez began to share a quote from Princeton University’s website regarding life beginning at conception, Mayor Pope quickly interrupted her. “Let me interrupt for one second. We’re not arguing that tonight. This is about the ordinance. Please.” Rodriguez was quick to defend her statements. “Yes sir. I understand that . . . but you are telling me that Roe v. Wade is the ‘law of the land’ and that we are sticking to the ‘law of the land’ . . . I have heard you quote that in this argument, in this discussion.”
Pope: “I’m not telling you anything . . . We are talking about our ordinance. Sanctuary City for the Unborn. That’s what the discussion needs about, okay?”
Rodriguez: “Yes, but I am getting to the point that human life is valuable . . . and I am describing where that life begins. That is crucial to this argument.“
Pope: “We have heard that. How many times have we heard that tonight? You haven’t talked about the ordinance yet. You have taken me through slavery and through civil rights, Let’s talk about the ordinance okay?”
Rodriguez: “Yes sir. Those are human rights injustices and I believe that if we do not pass this ordinance then we are committing yet another human rights injustice by saying we do not value the lives of the unborn. That is my entire point. It is that we need to be on the right side of justice in this case . . . there are so many times in history when we have not been that and I would like, as a city, for us to choose that. The citizens of Lubbock have made it glaringly obvious by the number of signatures we so quickly gathered, that we as a city stand for life and we hope you will stand with us.”
Near the end of the meeting, a representative from Right To Life of East Texas presented the City Council with a letter signed by nine Texas attorneys which criticized the arguments of Olson & Olson as well as comments made about the ordinance by the mayor and the Lubbock City Council. The attorneys wrote:
Mayor Pope and several city council members have been asserting that the proposed ordinance violates the federal Constitution, but they are mistaken. Abortion is not a constitutional right, and there is no language anywhere in the Constitution that even remotely suggests that anti-abortion laws are unconstitutional. Although the Supreme Court invented a right to abortion in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), the Court’s holding merely prevents states or localities from enforcing abortion bans until Roe is overruled. It does not prevent states or localities from enacting abortion bans, so long as the city’s enforcement of its ban is delayed until the Supreme Court overrules Roe. The proposed ordinance is consistent with Roe because it specifically prohibits the city or its officials from enforcing the ordinance until they obtain a declaratory judgment from a court that the enforcement of the ordinance will comport with Supreme Court precedent. Instead, the ordinance allows the abortion ban to be enforced only through private citizen suits, and enforcement mechanisms of that sort will not expose the city to any liability. See Okpalobi v. Foster, 244 F.3d 405, 426-29 (5th Cir 2001) (en banc).
The letter continued:
If city council members decide to reject the proposed ordinance, they… should not reject [it] on the belief that its enactment would somehow violate city law or the U.S. Constitution, and they should not use Olson & Olson’s flawed and unsupported analysis as an excuse to oppose the ordinance.
Another powerful testimony of the night came from Senator Charles Perry, who addressed some inaccuracies regarding the ordinance and of the oath which they had made, “so help me God.”
Despite the pro-life community’s work in Lubbock, the Mayor and City Council voted 7-0 against the ordinance under the reasoning that Roe v. Wade is the ‘law of the land’ and must be followed.
Councilwoman Latrelle Joy also took time in her closing comments to lecture citizens who voiced religious reasons for opposing the ordinance on the separation of Church and State. At the end of the night, Councilman Randy Christian even congratulated his fellow council members, recognizing the night as one that “will go down in the history books.”
Even though Lubbock’s city leaders rejected their opportunity to outlaw abortion, the matter is far from over. Since the City Council vote was forced by the Initiative and Referendum process, Lubbock citizens will have an opportunity to vote on the ordinance outlawing abortion in May 2021. If the majority of Lubbock citizens vote in favor of the ordinance, abortion will be outlawed in the city.
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 Texas, a Pastor of SovereignLOVE Church in Longview, Texas, and the founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn initiative.
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