AUSTIN (Nexstar) — After Texas outlawed nearly all abortions after the end of Roe v. Wade, some conservative local governments want to go further — banning their residents from traveling to obtain an abortion anywhere.
On Monday, Lubbock County passed an ordinance that prohibits assisting a county resident to obtain an abortion “regardless of the location of the abortion.” It also prohibits driving through the unincorporated areas of Lubbock County on the way to receive an abortion.
The measure significantly expands the scope of Texas’ statewide abortion ban — expanding the prohibition to Texas residents, not just Texas borders.
Mark Lee Dickson, a pastor and influential anti-abortion advocate, says the law is aimed at what he calls “abortion trafficking.”
“Even though abortion is outlawed in the state of Texas, we still have… abortion states,” Dickson said. “Just like we saw in years past during the times of slavery, there were free states and there were slave states. We’re seeing this problem that we have abortion states in America, and we need to see an America where unborn children are treated with the dignity and respect…
The ordinance, however, does not solely apply to those who “traffic” a woman against her will. Husbands, boyfriends, friends, and family members of a woman would be subject to civil liability if they drive her to receive an abortion in New Mexico, for example.
Lubbock County’s ordinance enforces the restrictions solely through private civil lawsuits, providing a cause of action to private citizens who know of someone who has helped transport a woman to receive an abortion. They expressly prohibit law enforcement from enforcing the ban.
Legal experts say the ordinance is both unconstitutional and unenforceable. Put simply, Texas cannot dictate the behavior of its residents outside of Texas — in the same way Texans can travel to Las Vegas to gamble and Colorado to purchase cannabis.
“There’s a laundry list of legal issues… they just do not have that authority,” senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas David Donatti said. “If a person travels to New Mexico, for example, Amarillo can’t use a backdoor way of prohibiting healthcare access in New Mexico because that is an extraterritorial prohibition on conduct, which local governments are expressly forbidden from doing under the Texas Local Government Code.”
The day after Mark Lee Dickson advocated for Lubbock County’s ordinance, he drove up the Panhandle to Amarillo, where the city council considered a similar ordinance Tuesday.
They are considering joining at least four localities that preceded Lubbock in passing a similar ban — including Cochran, Mitchell, and Goliad counties, as well as the City of Odessa.
“Hopefully, we’ll see by the end of the year the city of Amarillo become a sanctuary for the unborn,” Dickson said. “Until abortion is outlawed from coast to coast, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”