Three county commissioners approved an ordinance Monday that would bar pregnant Texas women from traveling through Lubbock County for an abortion in another state.
The commissioners – Jason Corley, Terence Kovar and Jordan Rackler – voted for the ordinance, which can only be enforced by private citizens who file lawsuits against people assisting pregnant Texans seeking an abortion. Commissioner Gilbert Flores, and County Judge Curtis Parrish abstained from voting.
Lubbock County is now the largest county to weigh in on the policy pushed by anti-abortion activists. It joins three other rural counties — Goliad, Mitchell and Cochran — in Texas that have already passed similar ordinances, despite the state already having one of the most restrictive bans on abortion in the U.S.
The ordinance is being pushed by the same organizers who started the “sanctuary city” ordinance movement before Roe v. Wade was eventually overturned. In 2021, Lubbock, the county seat, was the largest city to pass a “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinance.
The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.
Much like that ordinance, the travel ban would be enforced through private lawsuits filed against the people who “knowingly transport any individual for the purpose of providing or obtaining an elective abortion, regardless of where the elective abortion will occur.” It would not punish the pregnant woman.
Parrish, the county judge, wanted to postpone a vote until March 2024, to give the commissioner’s court more time to look at the legal purpose of the ordinance and what the physical impact would be to the county and taxpayers.
“We are a pro-life county, but we shouldn’t need a piece of paper that says you can’t drive on our roads,” Parrish said.
Legal scholars have said these so-called “abortion travel bans” have questionable enforcement mechanisms, making them more like a ceremonial declaration than a legally binding statute. In an opinion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote “May a state bar a resident of that state from traveling to another state to obtain an abortion? In my view, the answer is no based on the constitutional right to interstate travel.”
See here for some background. I don’t know what the exact mechanics of this will be – someone has to be identified as a plaintiff, to begin with – but this needs to stop, and the best chance of doing that is in the courts, as fraught as that sounds. Either there’s a right to travel in this country or there isn’t. You can drive from Texas into Oklahoma or New Mexico to gamble at a casino, or (as a certain furniture guy likes to do) cross over the Louisiana state line and place a bet on a sporting event from your phone. You can drive to Colorado and smoke marijuana. There are lots of things you can do in other states that you can’t do here, and you can freely travel to them without worrying that some fascist wannabe will sue you for it. It’s time to make Brent Kavanaugh live by his words. Even if these “bans” really are little more than ceremonial, they still contribute to fear and the belief that there’s no hope and no alternative. The real goal is to get a federal law affirming abortion rights on the books, but until then we need to get this crap off of them.
UPDATE: The city of Amarillo has decided not to vote on this same proposal, at least for now. I think it’s more likely to eventually pass there than not, but at least they don’t want to be rushed into it. And once again I say, by whatever means necessary, this needs to stop.