Lubbock City Council voted against pro-life ‘sanctuary city’ ordinance, but citizens will have final say
November 25, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – The City Council of one of the largest cities in Texas has voted against an ordinance outlawing abortion within their city limits. On November 17th, 2020, the city council of Lubbock, Texas, sitting at a population of 278,831, voted unanimously against the proposed ordinance which would have made the city the 17th and largest city in the nation to outlaw abortion.
The effort to see abortion outlawed in the city became most publicized in August when three Lubbock-area members of the Texas Legislature sent a letter urging the Mayor and City Council of Lubbock to enact an ordinance that would outlaw abortion within their city limits in an effort to prevent abortions from happening by the opening of Planned Parenthood in Lubbock, Texas.
The Lubbock City Council reached out to the Olson & Olson law firm out of Houston, Texas for outside legal assistance in the review of the ordinance which had been presented to them by their state lawmakers. This caused problems, however, when pro-life activists throughout the State of Texas immediately recognized the law firm as a firm that had family ties to Planned Parenthood. Four major pro-life organizations throughout the State of Texas have spoken out on these concerning ties including Right To Life of East Texas, West Texas For Life, Pro-Life Waco, and Texas Right To Life.
Before the Mayor and City Council had even met in a private meeting with Olson & Olson, the leaders of the City of Lubbock had already made public statements against the ordinance. After their private meeting with Olson & Olson, who unsurprisingly stood against the ordinance, the position of the Mayor and the City Council appeared to remain unchanged. As far as they were concerned, the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn ordinance was unconstitutional.
Knowing they had no other option, seven Lubbock residents began a process allowed by the Lubbock City Charter known as Initiative and Referendum. If the seven were able to get enough verified signatures from registered voters in the City of Lubbock then the ordinance outlawing abortion would be forced to a vote by the Lubbock City Council. If the City Council voted down the ordinance then, at that point, there would be an opportunity for the citizens of Lubbock to vote to accept or reject the ordinance at the next uniform election. Over 5,000 signatures were collected by the people of Lubbock in a period of two weeks, forcing the City Council to set a hearing and a vote on the ordinance for November 17th.
Over 150 people spoke before the Lubbock City Council at the November 17th meeting. The majority of those who spoke on the ordinance were in favor of seeing the ordinance adopted.
Before the hearing on the ordinance which would outlaw abortion within the city limits, Mayor Dan Pope set strict parameters for the meeting. “Comments tonight are to focus on the ordinance. We know what abortion is. Comments that deal with what abortion is and the medical procedure are not in order and will not be a part of our public hearing tonight. We will be discussing the merits of the ordinance.”
The first speaker at the hearing was Pastor David Rhoades of Broadview Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas. He immediately addressed the legal advice the City Council received from Olson & Olson. ”The legal advice that you received from Olson & Olson was poor and fundamentally incorrect.” Pastor Rhoades quoted 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.” Pastor Rhodes argued the fact that both accidental and intentional deaths of unborn individuals carried the potential for both 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 exists 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.”
Rhoades was correct. In February, the ACLU (representing the Lilith Fund and the TEA Fund) sued seven cities in East Texas which had passed the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn ordinance outlawing abortion. Three months later, after the cities amended their ordinances to make them even stronger, the ACLU withdrew their lawsuit. Abortion remains banned in every city which the ACLU sued. The lawsuits against the cities did not cost the city or taxpayers one penny.
Throughout the night the Mayor rebuked residents for addressing the issue of abortion in detail, sharing their personal stories about abortion, or sharing their faith reasons for being in favor of the ordinance outlawing abortion. One of the residents rebuked by Mayor Pope was Marty Gregory. Gregory is a female minister who volunteers at a pregnancy resource center. Her reason for being in support of the ordinance was rooted in her Christian beliefs. But what she said, in Mayor Pope’s eyes, was worthy of this rebuke: “We’ve got to stay on the ordinance. With all due respect, this is not about your beliefs or the Lord’s belief, it’s about the ordinance. So keep your comments to that.”
One of the most heated exchanges of the night was during the testimony of Shonda McCay Rodriguez. Mayor Pope appeared to become visibly bothered when Rodriguez began to quote from Princeton University’s website. The quote was on when life began. Despite Mayor Pope’s quick rebuke that addressing such statements were out of order, Rodriguez defended her reasoning for talking about when life begins. “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.“ Visibly irritated, Mayor Pope responded, “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 stood firm, unwilling to yield her point. “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. We need to be on the right side of justice in this case when 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.”
Despite the continual pushback, Lubbock residents continued to share their reasons for wanting to see the ordinance pass outlawing the act of abortion with Lubbock’s city limits.
Lubbock resident Dorothy Boyett recalled having spent over 20 years ministering outside of the previous abortion facility in Lubbock. “I’ll never forget those boxes they took out at the end of the day in biohazard bags,” said Boyett. “I knew what was inside and I will never forget that . . . I do hope and pray you vote for the Sanctuary City for the Unborn.”
A local physician, Dr. John Thomas addressed what he believed was Planned Parenthood’s true intention for coming to Lubbock. “Why they are coming here is for one purpose and for one purpose only - to kill babies,” shared Dr. Thomas. “What babies do they kill? They are going to kill black babies, Mexican babies, and poor parent babies. Is that a legacy to leave, Mayor and City Council?”
Lubbock resident Jim Brown had never spoken at a City Council meeting in his entire life, but found this council meeting worthy of his attendance. Brown’s testimony was riveting. “Are you going to stand for life or are you going to stand for death? Are you going to stand for right or are you going to stand for wrong?” Are you going to stand for good or are you going to stand for evil? Are you going to stand for political correctness or for moral correctness? I am looking into your eyes tonight because I see people with a soul and I am asking you to give these unborn children that have a soul at conception the right to live their life too.”
While Mayor Pope and many of the Council Members claimed they were “pro-life,” all members of the Lubbock City Council voted against the ordinance claiming that the ordinance would violate “Roe v. Wade” and was, therefore, both “unconstitutional” and “unenforceable.” This response, which was shared at the end of the over 5 ½ hour public hearing, was found to disappoint and irritate many including Jim Baxa, President of West Texas for Life. “They have had over three months and the Mayor and City Council still appear to not even understand the ordinance,” said Baxa.
Baxa explained that the Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinance does not seek to violate Roe v. Wade, but works within Roe v. Wade. According to Baxa, under the proposed ordinance, the immediate ban of abortion within the City of Lubbock would be immediately enforced in civil courts by private citizens, not by the State or the City.
This matter was also addressed in a letter which was given to the Mayor and City Council which was signed by attorneys across the State of Texas.
The attorneys which had signed onto the letter were: Jerri Ward (Austin, Texas), Kellye SoRelle (Granbury, Texas), Olivia Ponce (Marshall, Texas) Chris Carnohan (Abilene, Texas), Dustin Burrows (Lubbock, Texas), Cole Shooter (Lubbock, Texas), Frank G. Dobrovolny (Jacksonville, Texas), Elisha M. Hollis (Greenville, Texas), and Katie Nielsen (Carthage, Texas).
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).
Another concern of the Lubbock City Council was that Lubbock would be faced with a multitude of lawsuits that would cost a large amount of taxpayer dollars if they passed this ordinance. However, the former Solicitor General of Texas, Jonathan F. Mitchell offered to represent the City of Lubbock at no cost to the city and at no cost to taxpayers in the event that the city be faced with legal suits as a result of the passing of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn ordinance. In his speech before the City Council, Senator Charles Perry was clear, “It has already been said, but any expenditure of taxpayers dollars to defend this ordinance will be at the city’s decision. There has been a pro-bono, very experienced attorney on this issue . . . contact was provided on the front-end of when the letter requesting the ordinance was delivered. So to be clear: There are no taxpayer dollars needed to be spent on the defense of this ordinance. It is yall’s decision if that occurs.” Councilwoman Latrelle Joy, a lawyer herself, specifically addressed this matter by saying that having Mitchell representing Lubbock would “be a conflict of interest,” as she joined with other council members in expressing that they would never use any attorney recommended by Texas Right To Life. The council did not, however, appear to think that bringing in Olson & Olson was a conflict of interests.
Even though the Mayor and City Council rejected their opportunity to outlaw abortion, the issue is far from dead in Lubbock, Texas. Because the City Council vote was forced by the Initiative and Referendum process, the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn ordinance will be appearing on the ballot at the next uniform election which, at the very latest, will be May 2021. If the ordinance passes, abortion will immediately be outlawed in Lubbock, Texas.
Since the controversial vote, several Lubbock residents have expressed a desire to run for Mayor or City Council, especially after statements were made by Councilwoman Latrelle Joy who publicly criticized residents for using Scripture as part of their reasoning in favor of the ordinance.
"God's word has a place in the public square," said Baxa. "If the leaders of Lubbock believe that God does not have a place in the public square or that He has a place in the public square as long as He is subservient to them, that is a real problem and worthy of their removal from office."
For more information about the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn initiative, visit www.sanctuarycitiesfortheunborn.com
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.
Ryan Weathers is a student at Texas Tech University and an active member of Raiders Defending Life, a pro-life student group on the Texas Tech University Campus in Lubbock, Texas.