In explaining why the suit was dismissed, U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix said Planned Parenthood lacked jurisdiction.
“Because plaintiffs fail to show, as they must, that they have Article III standing to sue the city, the Court dismisses the case for lack of jurisdiction,” the judge wrote on Tuesday night. The lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it can be refiled.
Hendrix noted that Planned Parenthood alleged that the ordinance was invalid because it violated federal constitutional rights, but he said they admitted that “even if the court gave them everything they wanted, the court’s ruling would not bar private citizens from bringing the suit in state court, bind the state judiciary to its ruling, or force the ordinance’s repeal.”
Right to Life director Mark Lee Dickson hailed the court’s decision.
“We have said from the beginning that this ordinance is completely bulletproof from pre-enforcement lawsuits,” he wrote on Facebook. “The Court’s ruling today is an emphatic vindication of that.”
The ordinance, called “Sanctuary City for the Unborn,” was approved on May 1, and it went into effect on Tuesday, June 1, stipulating that abortion is now illegal within Lubbock’s city limits.
“Any person, corporation, or entity that commits an unlawful act … other than the mother of the unborn child that has been aborted, shall be liable in tort to the unborn child’s mother, father, grandparents, siblings, and half-siblings,” text of the ordinance states. “The person or entity that committed the unlawful act shall be liable to each surviving relative of the aborted unborn child for: (a) Compensatory damages, including damages for emotional distress; (b) Punitive damages; and (c) Costs and attorneys’ fees.”
Earlier this week, Texas Solicitor General Judd Stone wrote in a letter (pdf) that Lubbock’s ordinance doesn’t violate state law.
“In our view, Planned Parenthood has not shown that Lubbock’s ordinance is inconsistent with state law. To the extent that the Court finds state law to be ambiguous regarding the merits of Planned Parenthood’s claims, the Court should abstain from exercising jurisdiction,” Stone wrote.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, meanwhile, noted in a letter that “under Texas law, when a later-enacted statute clarifies the meaning of earlier statutes, it is ‘highly persuasive,’ even if it does not technically control.”
The case is Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services v. City of Lubbock, Texas, No. 5:21-cv-114