Pro-life advocates in Texas have declared victory in a battle with pro-abortion groups over a series of local ordinances. The Lilith Fund and the Texas Equal Access Fund, which help women pay for abortions, dropped a lawsuit against the East Texas cities that passed protections for the unborn after local authorities made changes—a move that seems to have satisfied the pro-abortion groups.
“There’s no question that is a win for us,” tweeted the Lilith Fund.
The conflict began last summer when the small East Texas city of Waskom declared itself a “sanctuary city for the unborn.” City leaders passed an ordinance protecting unborn babies within the city limits, and other cities followed Waskom’s example. Supporters hoped the laws would discourage pro-abortion groups from opening facilities close to the Louisiana border.
Since the ordinances also made it unlawful to aid women in getting an abortion, pro-abortion groups said it constrained their freedom of speech. The American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the abortion funding groups sued Waskom and six other Texas sanctuary cities in February.
The towns added clarifications to the ordinances that the provisions outlawing abortion may not be “construed to prohibit any conduct protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” They also removed a passage that designated the Lilith Fund, the Texas Equal Access Fund, and several other pro-abortion groups as “criminal organizations.”
Mark Lee Dickson, director of Right to Life of East Texas, said the original ordinances never denied First Amendment rights, and the added language clarified the measures outlawed abortion—not free speech. His organization said in a statement that the removal of the list of 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.” Dickson also noted the city of Waskom strengthened its ordinance by removing exceptions for abortion in the case of rape or incest.
The changes were enough to satisfy the ACLU, which withdrew the lawsuit.
Rebecca Parma, a legislative team member at Texas Right to Life, added, “By removing that … we were able to cut the legs out from underneath the lawsuit by the ACLU. They were just throwing anything they could at the court, trying to strike down the ordinance, and it failed.”
Dickson said the pro-life victory will encourage other cities to pass similar ordinances: “That’s going to be in our toolbox.”
Katie Glenn with Americans United for Life said the cities will probably face more lawsuits. Currently, no one faces the penalties of the ordinances because none of the sanctuary cities have abortion facilities. She said if an abortion business opened in one of the towns and the town criminally charged an abortionist, he or she could challenge the ordinances again: “I think that’s probably why the ACLU was happy to back off—because if it ever enters the realm of non-hypothetical, they’ll just file another lawsuit, and we’ll do this all over again.”