West Texas county bans travel on its roads to help someone seeking an abortion

Oct 24, 2023, 10:53 AM

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Commissioners in a west Texas county have banned drivers from transporting a person seeking an abortion, making it the largest of five counties, three in Texas, that have approved the measure.

Lubbock County commissioners voted 3-0 Monday, with two abstentions, to approve the ban and declare the county a “Sanctuary County for the Unborn,” rejecting County Judge Curtis Parrish and the district attorney’s office request to postpone the vote.

The ordinance allows citizens to sue anyone who assists a person in traveling to get an abortion in Lubbock County or even traveling through the area to seek care elsewhere.

No violations of the travel prohibition, now approved in four Texas and two New Mexico counties, have been reported and the ordinance does not apply to the person seeking an abortion.

“This ordinance as written has many legal problems,” said Parrish, who joined Commissioner Gilbert Flores in abstaining. “This ordinance, however, does not have a problem with its intent or the intent of those who are passionate about this.”

Commissioner Jason Corley, who voted for the travel ban, said the ordinance could be amended later as needed.

Mark Lee Dickson, a Longview pastor who has championed anti-abortion ordinances, praised the vote.

“Guys, I long for the day (when), coast to coast, abortion is considered a great moral, social and political wrong and is outlawed in every single state,” Dickson told commissioners.

How the ban would be enforced is a question, according to health law expert Seema Mohapatra, a law professor at Southern Methodist University.

“We haven’t had this kind of issue tested, so it’s really kind of a case of first impression,” Mohapatra said.

The Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the ban or its implementation.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas criticized the county ordinance in a statement.

“Texans already live under some of the most restrictive and dangerous abortion bans in the country, yet anti-abortion extremists continue to push additional unnecessary, confusing and fear-inducing barriers to essential healthcare,” said spokesperson Autumn Keiser.

Lubbock County has about 317,000 residents and far outnumbers the population of the three other Texas counties — Mitchell, Goliad and Cochran — that have approved the ordinance in recent months, with each county’s population counting fewer than 10,000 residents.

Lea and Roosevelt counties in New Mexico have also approved the measure, according to Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn’s website.

The ban does not apply to cities within Lubbock County, including the city of Lubbock, which has about 264,000 of the county’s residents. Lubbock voters in 2021 adopted a similar measure.

More than 60 other cities have also approved similar measures, according to Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn.

A 2022 state law severely restricting abortions by potentially fining and imprisoning doctors who perform the procedure was blocked in August by a judge who found that portions of the law violated the rights afforded to pregnant people under the Texas Constitution.

The judge’s injunction was immediately blocked by an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court by the state attorney general’s office.

The Texas law was passed prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling that overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that allowed abortions nationwide.

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West Texas county bans travel on its roads to help someone seeking an abortion