Legal Battles

ACLU of Texas Sues 7 Towns over Abortion Sanctuary Ordinances

Following Waskom's decision to declare itself a sanctuary from abortion, NARAL Texas put billboards up near the town.
Following Waskom's decision to declare itself a sanctuary from abortion, NARAL Texas put billboards up near the town. NARAL TX
click to enlarge Following Waskom's decision to declare itself a sanctuary from abortion, NARAL Texas put billboards up near the town. - NARAL TX
Following Waskom's decision to declare itself a sanctuary from abortion, NARAL Texas put billboards up near the town.
NARAL TX
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas made good on a threat it's been making for months Tuesday, suing seven East Texas towns in federal court over the towns' decision to declare themselves sanctuary cities for the unborn.

Waskom, which kicked the whole sanctuary cities movement off, is a defendant, as are the cities of Naples, Joaquin, Tenaha, Rusk, Gary and Wells. They all decided, at various points over the last eight months or so, that the Supreme Court decisions guaranteeing the right to abortion were invalid, and they outlawed health clinics providing abortions from their small towns.

None of the towns had abortion clinics to begin with, but that wasn't the point. The point, to hear the ACLU tell it, was to scare women in East Texas and elsewhere from seeking out a legal medical procedure. To hear the plaintiffs tell it, they were stopping criminal organizations from infiltrating their decent, Christian small towns.

During debate over the ordinances, the cities — the Observer attempted to talk to each of the seven about the suit but did not receive an on-the-record comment — acknowledged that they might face legal action. Now they do.


“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.” — Anjali Salvador

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“These ordinances are unconstitutional,” said Anjali Salvador, a staff attorney for 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.”

The ACLU is representing two Texas groups, the Lilith Fund and Texas Equal Access Fund, that are labeled criminal organizations in the sanctuary city ordinances. The organizations, according to the suit, are being harmed by the ordinances because they can't counter or clarify the confusion about abortion's legality in the seven cities, according to the lawsuit.

“Access to reproductive care including abortion, which is still legal, allows individuals and families to receive the support needed to thrive in our state," said Kamyon Connor, executive director for Texas Equal Access Fund. "Texas Equal Access Fund is proud to help people access abortion care, and we will fight to protect our ability to continue doing this necessary work."
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young