Last month, Lubbock City Council rejected a proposed measure to make it a so-called a sanctuary city for the unborn, on the grounds that such a law would be unenforceable and possibly illegal. But the issue didn’t end there.
Residents gathered enough signatures to force a public vote on the matter in May.
Kaysie Ellingson has been reporting on the story for Texas Tech Public Media. She says despite the large number of signatures, making Lubbock a sanctuary city for the unborn is still a very polarizing “toss-up” issue. That was clear during the public comment period when the city council was considering the original measure in November.
“Not many people showed up against the ordinance,” Ellingson told Texas Standard. “However, they were given the option, because we’re in the middle of a pandemic … to submit email statements, and they received 498 email statements; 473, I believe, were against this ordinance.”
Lubbock isn’t the first city where the idea for a sanctuary city for the unborn has gained traction. Ellingson says Mark Lee Dickson, the East Texas-based anti-abortion activist who coined the term, has tested the idea though petitions across the state. Lubbock is the largest city where it stuck. If the city approves the measure, it would become the 17th sanctuary city for the unborn in Texas.
State Sen. Charles Perry, along with the Right to Life East and West Texas for Life groups, are also responsible for promoting the idea in Lubbock, Ellingson says.
The measure is the only one so far on the May ballot, and will the election cost the city approximately $160,000 to administer.
Ellingson says if the measure passes, the city would have to adopt it, but not necessarily enforce it.
“So in that sense, it’s very confusing,” she said.
And it would have to exist in parallel with Planned Parenthood, which is operating again in Lubbock, and which Ellingson expects will perform abortions for those who need them starting in 2021.
This story has been updated to correct two errors: groups promoting sanctuary cities for the unborn are Right to Life East Texas and West Texas for Life, not East and West Texas chapters of the Texas Right to Life group. Also, if the measure passes, Lubbock would become the 17th, not 16th, sanctuary city for the unborn in Texas.