The Gary City Council amended its adopted abortion ordinance Thursday, removing bans on Plan B sales and references to specific abortion organizations. Officials also added a clause regarding free speech.
The amendments were made after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging abortion ban ordinances passed in seven East Texas cities on Feb. 25. The changes were made to the Gary ordinance to unify it with other cities’ ordinances and bolster it against the lawsuit, officials said. Other cities that passed abortion ban ordinances, such as Joaquin and Waskom, are also amending their ordinances.
The original adopted ordinance named reproductive choice organizations and advocacy groups as criminal organizations. In the lawsuit, the ACLU represents two abortion funds, the Lilith Fund and the Texas Equal Access Fund — both of which were specifically labeled as criminal entities in the original ordinance — and argues the ordinances violate those groups’ rights to free expression and association under the First Amendment.
In the amended ordinance, the clause declaring these organizations as criminal entities has been removed. A clause stating “No provision of Section C may be construed to prohibit any conduct protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as made applicable to the States through the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment” was added.
The amended ordinance also removes the clause prohibiting the sale and distribution of emergency contraception within the City of Gary.
The amended ordinance still outlaws abortions of any type within the city limits, with no exceptions — but abortion bans are unenforceable under current law because Roe v. Wade has not been overturned.
The changes to the ordinance in Gary and other cities were made at the recommendation of legal council to put more focus on the prohibition of surgical and medical abortions, Right to Life East Texas Director Mark Lee Dickson said in an email.
“This has been done to unify the ordinances in preparation for a sweeping legal victory,” Dickson said.
Gary and the other cities named in the ACLU’s lawsuit are being represented by attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell at no cost to the cities or their taxpayers, Dickson said.
“Both Right To Life of East Texas and Texas Right To Life stand fully behind every city which has outlawed abortion, as well as every city which will outlaw abortion in the near future,” Dickson said. “We are all willing and prepared to go to the Supreme Court, if necessary, to defend these constitutional ordinances enacted to protect baby Texans from the baby-murdering industry.”
Dickson said that more Texas cities in the near future “will be taking the same steps that Waskom and other God-fearing cities took to outlaw abortion in their cities and become sanctuary cities for the unborn.”