The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against seven small Texas cities with local laws banning abortion. The cities call themselves “sanctuary cities for the unborn” and have passed laws that define abortion as murder, allow family members of abortion patients to sue providers for emotional distress, ban emergency contraception and birth control, and categorize abortion rights groups as “criminal organizations.”
The ACLU of Texas and ACLU National are representing the Texas Equal Access Fund and Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, two abortion access advocacy organizations that are banned from operating in the seven cities under the new ordinances.
“These ordinances are unconstitutional,” said Anjali Salvador of the ACLU of Texas. “Abortion is legal in every state and city in the country. Cities cannot punish pro-abortion organizations for carrying out their important work – especially when they do so in a way that violates the First Amendment.”
These ordinances are part of a wave of conservative abortion laws passed in eleven Texas cities in the last year. Three cities—Mineral Wells, Omaha and Jacksboro—voted against similar ordinances, and at least ten others are considering them. Though none of the cities currently have abortion clinics, the ordinances prevent any from opening in the future and limit access to other reproductive healthcare services.
Many elements of the ordinances are currently unenforceable due to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that declared state abortion bans unconstitutional. But conservative activists have pushed for these local laws partly as symbolic measures and partly in the hope that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe.
Reproductive rights activists have concerns that the Court may begin to undermine Roe with its upcoming decision in June Medical Services, LLC v. Gee. The case will require the Court to rule on the constiutionality of restrictive abortion regulations in Lousiana that would effectively eliminate abortion access in the state if upheld. The Court will hear arguments for June on March 4.
Sources: CNN 2/25/20; ACLU of Texas 2/25/20; CBS News 2/25/20; The Texas Tribune 2/25/20