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Federal lawsuits against East Texas ‘sanctuary cities for unborn’ dropped by ACLU

ACLU drops suit after agreed upon ordinance amendments
The Waskom City Council voted Tuesday to pass an ordinance attempting to ban abortions in the...
The Waskom City Council voted Tuesday to pass an ordinance attempting to ban abortions in the city (KSLA)
Updated: May. 27, 2020 at 7:36 PM CDT
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EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - A lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two reproductive rights groups against seven East Texas cities has been dropped after changes were made to local ordinances.

The lawsuit was brought in the wake of a number of East Texas towns declaring themselves “sanctuary cities for the unborn.” Those cities were Waskom, Naples, Joaquin, Tenaha, Rusk, Gary and Wells. The cities said that their goal was to prevent future abortion clinics from moving into their communities. No abortion providers exist in those towns currently.

The ACLU represented two organizations in the lawsuits: Lilith Fund, and Texas Equal Access Fund (TEA Fund). These organizations were labeled “criminal entities” by the sanctuary cities for their pro-abortion views, according to the ACLU and as shown in the wording of the ordinances.

As a result of the lawsuit, the cities removed the label “criminal entities” from their sanctuary cities ordinances. Waskom, the East Texas city which was the groundbreaker in the East Texas sanctuary cities movement, posted their amended ordinance online, omitting the reference to the groups as “criminal.”

Amended Abortion Ord No 343 by Jeff Awtrey on Scribd

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The Texas Right to Life organization released a statement on May 26 saying, “In response to the lawsuit, each of the cities voted to amend their ordinances to further ensure that the abortion industry had no chance of convincing a judge to entertain their weak accusations. These amended ordinances removed extraneous, but accurate, language labeling certain auxiliary groups 'criminal organizations.”

The ACLU responded to a KLTV request for more information about the lawsuit having been dropped. A spokesperson for the group, Imelda Mejia, said, “In response to our lawsuit, the cities went back and addressed the concerns we brought up and voted to amend their ordinances to now no longer list our plaintiffs as criminal entities and stop them from doing their work. As I am sure you know, abortion is legal everywhere and cannot be banned. The law still stands in all 50 states."

Additionally, ACLU of Texas staff attorney Anjali Salvador said, “Cities cannot punish pro-abortion organizations for carrying out their important and constitutionally protected work. In response to our lawsuit, the seven cities we sued revised their ordinances to allow pro-abortion organizations to operate within the cities and stop calling them ‘criminal.’"

He added that he feels what is left of the cities’ ordinances if “far from perfect,” he said the ACLU of Texas will continue to monitor the language in the ordinances.

Director of the Texas Right To Life group and founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn movement Mark Lee Dickson, said “This is a total and complete victory for the cities that have enacted these ordinances. This lawsuit was nothing but a publicity stunt to deter other cities from creating sanctuary cities for the unborn.”

The lawsuit originally claimed 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.

To read the full lawsuit as filed, click here.

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