East Texas (KLTV) - Both the ACLU of Texas and ACLU National filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to challenge “sanctuary cities for the unborn” ordinances in seven East Texas cities.
The ACLU, or American Civil Liberties Union, is representing two organizations in the lawsuits: Lilith Fund, and Texas Equal Access Fund (TEA Fund). These organizations have been labeled “criminal entities” by the sanctuary cities for their pro-abortion views, according to the ACLU website. Both organizations “support people who need abortions and advocate for the right to access abortions,” the ACLU site adds. These organizations do not perform abortions themselves.
The lawsuit claims that the ordinances violate the organizations’ rights to free expression and association protected under the First Amendment, and illegally impose punishment without a fair trial by designating them criminal.
“These anti-abortion ordinances are part of a nationwide attack on abortion access,” said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Whether they are 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.”
According to the ordinances, if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned, abortion will be unlawful within the cities. In addition, the ordinances named eight reproductive rights organizations as “criminal organizations” and declared it unlawful for them to “operate within” the cities, the suit says.
City councils across East Texas voted to become sanctuary cities for the unborn, despite there not being any abortion providers within their city limits. They include Waskom, Naples, Joaquin, Rusk, Gary, Wells and Tenaha. These cities are listed as defendants in the lawsuit.
Not listed in the lawsuit are the cities of Omaha and Gilmer, which both declared themselves sanctuary cities for the unborn.
Waskom became the first of the East Texas cities listed to declare itself a sanctuary city for the unborn. The “resolution for life” ordinance was voted on unanimously by the five city council members in June 2019.
In a Facebook post, Mark Dickson of Right to Life of East Texas said the Resolution for Life declares “that all human life, including fetal life at every stage of gestation, must always be protected and that society must protect those who cannot protect themselves.”
When Gilmer city council was discussing the ordinance for their town, East Texas attorney Blake Bailey said during that meeting if a city enacts the anti-abortion ordinance, they open themselves to a court challenge, and he questioned how it would be enforced. Bailey said that if Gilmer decided to pass this ordinance in their city, they would be breaking a constitutional law.
“It would be wrong to find someone guilty and punish them for something that has been determined by the United States Supreme Court to be legal,” Bailey said.
Gilmer did, however, vote to become a sanctuary city for the unborn that night. Again, Gilmer is not named as a defendant in the ACLU lawsuit.
More recently, Carthage took up the issue of whether or not to adopt the ordinance. After tabling the matter at previous months’ city council meetings, council members decided on February 24 against adopting the ordinance in Carthage, citing the cost to fight a lawsuit such as the one that has now been brought against the seven cities which did adopt the ordinance. He also said that the attorneys with whom he spoke advised against adopting an ordinance that was unconstitutional.
Dickson with Right to Life of East Texas wrote in a public post on Tuesday night that the lawsuit brought by the ACLU is meritless and was brought to deter and intimidate cities from enacting the sanctuary city for the unborn ordinances. He said there is a legal team ready to defend the ordinances at no charge to the cities that are named in the lawsuit. He did not indicate in that post who the legal team was.
The suit is being brought by the ACLU of Texas, the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, and the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
ABOVE: Mark Lee Dickson Interviews Joaquin City Councilman Mike Cummings, Jr. about why the town felt it important to declare themselves a sanctuary city for the unborn.