ACLU files suit to block Texas "sanctuary cities" from outlawing abortion

By Kate Smith

/ CBS News

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Tuesday against seven Texas towns that have passed local laws banning abortion.

The towns' ordinances claim to ban abortion, some kinds of reproductive health offerings, like birth control and emergency contraception including Plan B. Though none of the towns have clinics that provide abortions, the regulations say they prohibit those facilities from opening.

In its filing, the ACLU claims the ordinances violate the constitution and mislead residents "as to whether individuals can in fact exercise their right to access abortion."

The Battle Over Abortion ›

  • ACLU files suit to block "sanctuary cities" from outlawing abortion
  • Louisiana passes more anti-abortion restrictions than any other state
  • President Trump speaks at March for Life anti-abortion rally
  • Americans weigh in on candidates who support abortion restrictions
  • Planned Parenthood leader speaks out on Roe v. Wade anniversary

More in The Battle Over Abortion

The plaintiffs in the suit, Texas Equal Access Fund and Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity advocate for education about abortion access. The ACLU suit says they have been deemed "criminal organizations" by the local ordinances, as have six other organizations that promote abortion rights.

Part of the ordinances would not take effect unless the Supreme Court overturned existing laws, including Roe V. Wade, but the existence of the ordinances limit education efforts and create confusion about abortion rights, the ACLU claims.

The towns passed the ordinances to block clinics from moving to Texas following the passage of stricter laws in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, the ACLU suit said, citing a local news report that quoted the Mayor of Waskom, a small town in East Texas.

Waskom was the first town to declare itself a "sanctuary city for the unborn."

Waskom's location made it a prime target for the ordinance, said Mark Lee Dickinson, executive director of Right to Life East Texas, in an interview with CBS News last year. Waskom is about 20 minutes away from the Hope Clinic in Shreveport, Louisiana, an abortion provider that could close depending on how the Supreme Court rules on an upcoming case centering on abortion restrictions.

"It would make complete sense for people to cross the border to Waskom," Dickinson told CBS News. "That would destroy the city."

First published on February 25, 2020 / 2:36 PM

© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.