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LUBBOCK, Texas, May 4, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Last week, voters in Lubbock, Texas, approved a ballot measure to ban abortion and allow relatives of aborted babies to sue abortion providers.

With more than 250,000 residents, Lubbock becomes the largest city in the United States to declare itself a “sanctuary city for the unborn,” and the 26th city overall to do so. Voters approved the ordinance by roughly 62% to 37%.

“It shall be unlawful for any person to procure or perform an abortion of any type and at any stage of pregnancy in the City of Lubbock, Texas,” the ordinance states. “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion that occurs in the City of Lubbock, Texas.”

Under the policy, abortion providers could be penalized with “maximum penalty permitted under Texas law” for violation of city public health ordinance, though the measure includes life-of-the-mother exemptions.

“The victory is significant to many as the City of Lubbock is the 11th most populated city in the State of Texas and the 83rd most populated city in the United States,” wrote Mark Lee Dickson, director of Right to Life of East Texas and founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative. “Lubbock is also home to Texas Tech University, the seventh largest university by enrollment in the State of Texas,” he noted.

Last year, Mayor Dan Pope and the Lubbock city council voted against the “sanctuary city for the unborn” measure when it was brought up for hearing due to a citizen petition.

“Since the vote of the council was forced by the Initiative and Referendum process, this allowed for Lubbock residents to take the opportunity to get the ordinance on the ballot and to vote on the ordinance themselves on May 1, 2021,” Dickson explained.

Mayor Pope, who staunchly opposed the ordinance and compared Planned Parenthood centers to churches, wrote in a statement last week that “voters made it clear that Lubbock will become the next sanctuary city for the unborn.” Pope added that he and the city councilmen will “begin the process in adding the approved ordinance to the City of Lubbock Code of Ordinances.” The measure could take effect as early as June 1.

The public enforcement mechanism of the ordinance is dependent upon the overturning of Roe v. Wade, although it also contains an immediately enforceable private mechanism.

“Any person, corporation, or entity that commits an unlawful act… other than the mother of the unborn child that has been aborted, shall be liable in tort to the unborn child’s mother, father, grandparents, siblings and half-siblings,” the ordinance declares.

Surviving relatives of aborted preborn babies can sue abortion providers for compensatory damages, including for emotional distress, as well as for punitive damages.

The pro-life “sanctuary” movement in Lubbock gathered momentum last year after Planned Parenthood announced plans to open an abortion center in the city. State Sen. Charles Perry circulated a petition in response to the announcement, calling for people to “stand strong and send a clear message that the abortion industry should not set up shop in our backyard.”

Planned Parenthood opened in Lubbock in the fall and started aborting preborn babies on April 15, pushing pro-life advocates even harder. “They’re murdering babies here in our city,” Jim Baxa of West Texas for Life told the Texas Tribune last month. “We need to stop that.”

“Because the Lubbock Ordinance that outlaws abortion was passed after abortions were offered in Lubbock, this makes Lubbock the first city in the nation to pass an ordinance outlawing abortion in a city where abortions are already being committed,” Mark Dickson said.

He noted that Attorney Jonathan Mitchell, former Texas solicitor general, has offered to represent the city for free if Lubbock faces legal challenges due to the ordinance.

“In May 2020, when seven cities in East Texas that had passed the ordinance were sued by the ACLU, Mitchell represented the cities, and after three months, the ACLU withdrew its lawsuit. The lawsuit cost the cities and taxpayers nothing — and abortion remains outlawed in every city that was sued,” Dickson added.

Lubbock joins more than fifteen Texas cities that already have passed ordinance to ban abortion and designate themselves pro-life “sanctuaries.”