Anti-abortion ordinance in Lubbock part of troubling trend

Anti-abortion ordinance in Lubbock part of troubling trend May 3, 2021
By Barbara Alvarez
Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern
Freedom From Religion Foundation
It is only a few months into this year, but 2021 has already been record-setting in terms of abortion restrictions. An ordinance recently passed in a Texas town is a standout example.Since Jan. 1, there have been a whopping 536 anti-science abortion restrictions — driven by religious ideology — introduced across 46 states. Alarmingly, 61 abortion restrictions have passed in 13 different states. In fact, between April 6 and April 29, 28 devastating restrictions were signed into law in seven states. If this rate continues, the United States could see the highest number of abortion restrictions passed since Roe v. Wade became a constitutional right in 1973.

And now local ordinances are also putting into place anti-abortion measures, presaging a new trend that could impact a city near you. On May 1, voters in Lubbock, Texas, approved a “Sanctuary City for the Unborn” ordinance that purports to make abortion illegal within the city limits with no exceptions for instances of rape or incest. Since the Lubbock City Council properly deemed such an ordinance unconstitutional and unenforceable, it was put through as a public vote through a petition. Anti-abortion activists behind the ordinance, including state Sen. Charles Perry, issued a letter calling abortion a “wicked action” and noting that they “fear God.”

An unsettling 62.5 percent of voters were in favor of the ordinance. Unsurprisingly, churches were integral into drumming up voters and passing this bill. Jim Baxa of West Texas for Life, an anti-abortion organization, credited the churches for their discriminatory activism: “The Church of Jesus Christ banded together, stepped up to their role, their God-given role . . . There were 200 churches in the city of Lubbock, working together to stand up for life. It’s excellent.”

The ordinance could take effect as early as June 1, according to the Lubbock mayor. This means that the Lubbock code of ordinances will be amended to outlaw abortions within city limits, and Lubbock will become the largest city to adopt this anti-abortion measure. This will pose a problem for the patients and physicians of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, which opened a location in Lubbock last year. Without this location, the nearest abortion clinic is five and a half hours away — putting a major burden on women seeking abortion care. Fortunately, legal challenges are in the works, with the ACLU of Texas affirming that it will continue to fight for the rights of Lubbock abortion patients.

Christian nationalist legislators and church leaders alike are encouraged by this destructive ordinance. Texas Rep. Dustin Burrows of Lubbock described the vote as a “victory” that upheld “Christian conservative values.” Mark Lee Dickson, an East Texas pastor who helped push the ordinance, said that he was “grateful” and demanded that Planned Parenthood cease its operations in Lubbock — a total disregard for the health and safety of women seeking reproductive health care. Dickson described the community as “God-fearing people” and falsely equated abortion to murdering children. Anti-abortion activists celebrated the passage of the ordinance at Trinity Church, with anti-choice activist Baxa vowing to push the ordinance in nearby cities. Already, a shocking seven other Texas towns have passed similar legislation.

The anti-abortion ordinance in Lubbock is a stark warning for the future of abortion access. While state and federal anti-abortion legislation floods Congress, it is important to be aware of local anti-abortion measures that risk the health, rights and lives of women. Secular activism and vigilance are needed more than ever.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barbara Alvarez was a major winner in last year’s FFRF essay competition for graduate students, writing about the bible’s role in the abortion battle. She is FFRF’s first Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern, a program set up to memorialize FFRF’s principal founder, who was an early abortion rights activist and author of the book Abortion is a Blessing.

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