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Planned Parenthood and ACLU of Texas challenge City of Lubbock on abortion ordinance

Planned Parenthood files lawsuit against City of Lubbock on abortion ordinance
Planned Parenthood files lawsuit against City of Lubbock on abortion ordinance(KCBD)
Published: May. 18, 2021 at 12:24 AM CDT|Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 11:58 AM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services has filed a lawsuit against the City of Lubbock, hoping to stop enforcement of the recent “Sanctuary City for the Unborn” ordinance by saying it violates rights to due process according to the U.S. Constitution and Texas law.

In a complaint filed Monday by Planned Parenthood and Dr. G. Sealy Massingill, the non-profit corporation claims the new ordinance violates the right to abortion under Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, as well as Texas Penal Code, saying “the Ordinance’s imposition of criminal and civil liability is inconsistent with the Texas Penal Code and the Texas wrongful death statute.”

According to the complaint, G. Sealy Massingill, M.D., is Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas’ Chief Medical Officer and one of the physicians serving patients at the Lubbock health center. The suit claims Dr. Massingill, along with all other physicians and medical staff who participate in the provision of abortions at the Lubbock health center, are threatened with liability under the ordinance.

As the ordinance declares procuring, performing, aiding, or abetting abortion to be “unlawful” and “murder,” the complaint from Planned Parenthood states the ordinance “imposes substantial liability on anyone who procures, performs, aids, or abets an abortion in Lubbock,” which places a substantial obstacle in the path of obtaining an abortion.

Planned Parenthood states on top of legal costs associated with lawsuits brought on by the ordinance allowing injunctions against anyone planning an abortion, the ordinance places further burden on those looking for services as the nearest abortion provider to Lubbock is more than 300 miles away, delaying access to abortion, something Planned Parenthood says “carries greater health risks.”

Statement from Ken Lambrecht, president & CEO, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas:

“Lubbock’s controversial new ordinance violates our patients’ constitutional right to access abortion and we are expecting the court to stop this unlawful ordinance. Planned Parenthood is proud to provide high-quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health care to hundreds of patients in Lubbock since opening our health center last year. This year, those services expanded to include abortion services. Patients are counting on our health center in Lubbock, and we are committed to expanding access to affordable health care services — especially during the pandemic. Today, we are standing up for the rights of our Lubbock patients to make their own medical decisions.”

Statement from Ken Lambrecht, president & CEO, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas:

“Lubbock’s controversial new ordinance violates our patients’ constitutional right to access abortion and we are expecting the court to stop this unlawful ordinance. Planned Parenthood is proud to provide high-quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health care to hundreds of patients in Lubbock since opening our health center last year. This year, those services expanded to include abortion services. Patients are counting on our health center in Lubbock, and we are committed to expanding access to affordable health care services — especially during the pandemic. Today, we are standing up for the rights of our Lubbock patients to make their own medical decisions.”

Statement from Andre Segura, Legal Director, ACLU of Texas:

“Anti-abortion advocates have been crisscrossing the state, pressuring municipalities to pass these unconstitutional and malicious anti-abortion ordinances for many months. These ordinances stigmatize abortion care, hurt those who provide it, and shame the people who need access to it. While Lubbock is not the first city to pass this type of ordinance, it is the only one with an abortion clinic and the nearest clinic within hundreds of miles. We’re suing to protect the constitutional rights of Texans and to ensure that every single person has access to all health care options — regardless of where they live.”

constitutional rights of Texans and to ensure that every single person has access to all health care options — regardless of where they live.”

Statement from Dyana Limon-Mercado, executive director, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes:

“Every Texan deserves the right to make their own personal, private medical decisions. Abortion is essential health care, and nearly one in four women in the U.S. will have an abortion by the age of 45. The Lubbock ordinance is unconstitutional and flies in the face of what we know to be true: the majority of Texans support access to safe, legal abortion. Lubbock’s unlawful ordinance aligns with what we are also seeing in the Texas Legislature, which passed an extreme six-week abortion ban, which would allow anyone to sue a doctor or medical professional for conducting or assisting with an abortion — and even would subject friends or family members who help a patient obtain care to the threat of lawsuits. Allowing private citizens to enforce abortion restrictions will lead to frivolous and harrassing lawsuits that will overburden our court systems. The Lubbock ordinance and the six-week ban passed in the Texas Legislature are blatant attempts to push abortion care out of reach for the people who need it most. Planned Parenthood is committed to doing everything it can to protect its patients and essential reproductive health care.”

The complaint cites rulings from the Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit stating that abortion regulations with the purpose of placing substantial obstacles in the path of obtaining an abortion impose a constitutionally impermissible “undue burden.”

The claims in the complaint echo similar input issued by an outside law firm when solicited by the City in November 2020.

Olson & Olson Law Firm told the City when the ordinance was first proposed: “The Proposed Ordinance is inconsistent with the United States and Texas Constitutions.” The City Council voted unanimously to reject the ordinance, bringing it to special election in May.

MORE: Legal opinion explains why city rejected proposal to abolish abortion in Lubbock

According to the ordinance, penalties cannot be imposed unless the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade, a “state or federal court … rules that the imposition or threatened imposition” of such penalty “will not impose an ‘undue burden’ on women seeking abortions,” or “state or federal court … rules that the person, corporation, or entity that committed the unlawful act … lacks third-party standing to assert the rights of women seeking abortions in court.”

The City of Lubbock issued the following release responding to Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit:

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services and G. Sealy Massingill, M.D. filed a lawsuit Monday, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Lubbock Division, challenging Lubbock’s recently adopted Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinance. This ordinance was enacted by the voters of Lubbock through the Charter petition process and the Lubbock City Council certified the election results on May 11, 2021. The City will vigorously defend this ordinance and looks forward to presenting that defense in court.

Heather Hacker and Andrew Stephens of Hacker Stephens LLP of Austin, and Fernando Bustos of the Bustos Law Firm, P.C., of Lubbock, will represent the City of Lubbock in this lawsuit.

A full copy of the complaint from Planned Parenthood can be seen here:

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