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Lubbock Moves Ahead With Referendum On Sanctuary City For The Unborn

A protestor outside a city council meeting in Lubbock in November standing on a stone pedestal with several people in the background holding signs
Sarah Self-Walbrick
Texas Tech Public Media
Anti-abortion activists have circulated petitions across the state to see where the idea for sanctuary cities for the unborn is popular. Lubbock is the largest city where the idea stuck.

If voters approve the ballot measure in May, Lubbock would be the largest city in Texas to ban abortions. But the ban would likely be unenforceable.

From Texas Standard:

Last month, Lubbock City Council rejected a proposed measure to make it a so-called a sanctuary city for the unborn, on the grounds that such a law would be unenforceable and possibly illegal. But the issue didn't end there.

Residents gathered enough signatures to force a public vote on the matter in May.

Kaysie Ellingson has been reporting on the story for Texas Tech Public Media. She says despite the large number of signatures, making Lubbock a sanctuary city for the unborn is still a very polarizing "toss-up" issue. That was clear during the public comment period when the city council was considering the original measure in November.

"Not many people showed up against the ordinance," Ellingson told Texas Standard. "However, they were given the option, because we're in the middle of a pandemic ... to submit email statements, and they received 498 email statements; 473, I believe, were against this ordinance."

Lubbock isn't the first city where the idea for a sanctuary city for the unborn has gained traction. Ellingson says Mark Lee Dickson, the East Texas-based anti-abortion activist who coined the term, has tested the idea though petitions across the state. Lubbock is the largest city where it stuck. If the city approves the measure, it would become the 16th sanctuary city for the unborn in Texas.

State Sen. Charles Perry, along with the East and West Texas chapters of the Texas Right to Life group, are also responsible for promoting the idea in Lubbock, Ellingson says.

The measure is the only one so far on the May ballot, and will the election cost the city approximately $160,000 to administer.

Ellingson says if the measure passes, the city would have to adopt it, but not necessarily enforce it.

"So in that sense, it's very confusing," she said.

And it would have to exist in parallel with Planned Parenthood, which is operating again in Lubbock, and which Ellingson expects will perform abortions for those who need them starting in 2021.

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Michael Marks
Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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