LUBBOCK, Texas — Voters elected to make Lubbock a sanctuary city for the unborn. However, for some, it may beg the question, what happens next? EverythingLubbock.com sat down with two legal experts regarding what they believe will happen.
“We’ll have to see,” Richard D. Rosen, Constitutional Law Professor at Texas Tech University School of Law, said.
The Lubbock city council unanimously voted against the ordinance in November, stating it was unconstitutional and unenforceable. The ordinance indicates unless certain court changes were to happen, the city could not subject any person, corporation, or entity who commits an unlawful act such as aiding or abetting an abortion, or performing or tying to obtain one. This is part of public enforcement.
“Unless Roe v. Wade is overruled,” Rosen said. “They did not want the city to bring an action because that essentially is a loser automatically.”
Rosen predicts a few things could happen going forward. The American Civil Liberties Union could step in and try to bring forth a lawsuit, but they may not have the standing. A private citizen could also try to sue a provider like Planned Parenthood from conducting an abortion, or a family member could sue for damages.
“That’s probably less likely immediately,” Rosen said of a potential lawsuit from a family member. “I think it’s more likely to see a private citizen bringing in a suit,”
Attorney Fernando Bustos agreed, a lawsuit is likely to happen immediately.
“What I took away from this ordinance is this is a preparatory ordinance,” Bustos said. “Yeah, there will be litigation in federal court almost immediately after this gets passed, I anticipate.”
Bustos said because of Roe v. Wade, it would be unlikely that someone could bring a lawsuit against abortion providers under private enforcement.
“Abortion providers can raise a defense that while they were taking their actions, abortion was legal, by the Supreme Court on Roe v. Wade,” Bustos said.
Bustos also added a private citizen may not be able to sue because they may not have standing. In other words, they would have to show they’ve been injured or aggrieved by the provider’s actions. Not only that, but the ordinance also provides a defense. And because of Roe v. Wade, the lawsuit could be subject to dismissal.
“In my opinion, right away, because of this exemption it’s right in the statute, right in the ordinance, and under Texas law, if someone filed a lawsuit, where there was an automatic defense on the books that permits that conduct,” Bustos said.
Under the ordinance, a mother couldn’t be sued, nor could someone sue if the abortion was necessary to save a life.
Bustos said if someone planned to sue Sunday, the day after the ordinance were passed, he wouldn’t recommend it unless Roe v. Wade were overturned.
Both legal experts say it’s unknown if this could make it to the Supreme Court in an effort to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Bustos said it could be used as a test case, or a legal action whose purpose is used to set a precedent.
Rosen said in his opinion, that’s unlikely to happen.
As for the ordinance costing the city money, Bustos said it would depend on whether the city decided to defend it.
In a statement from Mayor Dan Pope, he said the ordinance becomes effective June 1.