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ACLU sues Texas towns that declared themselves 'sanctuary cities' for unborn children

'These ordinances are unconstitutional'

Alex Wong/Getty Images

In its latest pro-abortion litigation effort, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against seven East Texas towns that declared themselves "sanctuary cities" for unborn children.

The ACLU brought the suit on behalf of two pro-abortion groups, the Lilith Fund and the Texas Equal Access Fund (TEA Fund), saying that their rights to free expression and association are violated by the pro-life ordinances.

The first of the "sanctuary" ordinances listed in Tuesday's lawsuit was passed by the city of Waskom back in June; the other listed cities which followed later are Naples, Joaquin, Tenaha, Rusk, Gary, and Wells.

According to the ACLU of Texas' news release on the lawsuit, the ordinances in question contain language that would outlaw abortion altogether within city limits if the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade is ever overturned, which the 79-page legal complaint argues "misleads residents of these cities as to whether individuals can in fact exercise their right to access abortion."

The lawsuit also contends that the cities' ordinances have dubbed abortion providers and pro-abortion entities as "criminal organizations," which keeps them from clearing up confusion and assisting people with aborting their unborn children.

"As a result of being designated criminal, Plaintiffs are prohibited from operating, speaking, and associating within these cities," the lawsuit contends. "Consequently, Plaintiffs are hampered from countering or clarifying the confusion created by the ordinances as to the legality of abortion services."

"These ordinances are unconstitutional," said ACLU of Texas staff attorney Anjali Salvador in a statement. "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."

Mark Dickson, the director of Right to Life East Texas, has been a leading figure in the unborn sanctuary movement in the Lone Star State for months now. Before Waskom passed its initial ordinance, he voiced his frustration to the city council that legislators in Austin weren't passing "meaningful legislation that protects unborn life."

"We have every intention of targeting every part of the state," Dickson told the Texas Tribune last month. "Every city, no matter what size, is valuable."

In a Tuesday facebook post, Dickson derided the ACLU's complaint as "a meritless lawsuit brought to deter and intimidate cities from enacting these ordinances, which are entirely constitutional and consistent with the laws of Texas." He also said, "We have a legal team ready to defend these ordinances at no charge to the cities, and we are prepared to defend all other cities that enact these laws at no charge to the taxpayers."

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