Abortion rights groups drop suit over abortion ordinances

May 27, 2020 GMT

DALLAS (AP) — Two reproductive rights groups have dropped their lawsuit against seven small East Texas towns that had declared abortion-rights organizations “criminal organizations” in anti-abortion ordinances that prohibit them from operating within city limits.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said Tuesday that the lawsuit had achieved its purpose of compelling the towns to revise their ordinances “to allow pro-abortion organizations to operate within the cities and stop calling them ‘criminal,’” said Imelda Mejia, spokeswoman for the ACLU of Texas.

The ACLU had filed the lawsuit three months ago on behalf of the Texas Equal Access Fund and the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity in federal court in Marshall, Texas.


The lawsuit was filed against Waskom, Naples, Joaquin, Tenaha, Rusk, Gary and Wells. They are among municipalities in Texas that in the last year have passed the largely symbolic ordinances. None of the cities — which range in population from around 300 to 5,000 — have abortion clinics.

The lawsuit noted that the ordinances concede the cities can’t ban abortion under the current law. The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade establishes a nationwide right to abortion. But the lawsuit says the ordinances label TEA Fund, the Lilith Fund and other abortion-rights organizations as “criminal organizations” and unconstitutionally ban them from operating in their cities.

The lawsuit also says that the wording prohibiting the groups from “operating” within the cities is so vague that it’s unclear what exactly is prohibited.

“While what’s left of the ordinances is far from perfect, we have succeeded in defending our right of our clients and other organizations to freely advocate for abortion care throughout Texas,” Mejia said in an email.

Kimberlyn Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life, claimed victory on behalf of the towns. She acknowledged, however, that “each of the cities voted to amend their ordinances to further ensure that the abortion industry had no chance of convincing a judge to entertain their weak accusations. These amended ordinances removed extraneous, but accurate, language labeling certain auxiliary groups ’criminal organizations.”